A storm of outrage erupted in mid August when Prague city council gave the green light for a camp to be created for the capital’s homeless. Human rights groups said it was a throwback to a darker era, non-profit groups argued the step would simply not work. This week’s Talking Point looks at the arguments stirred up about the homeless camp.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas distanced himself on Sunday from reported
comments of Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg about the French
expulsions of Roma or gypsies originally from Romania. Mr. Schwarzenberg
was reported by the Lidove noviny newspaper on Saturday to have said it
impossible not to suspect that a racist perspective played a role in the
ongoing expulsions. He also said the move was against the spirit and
position of the European Union.
The Czech Foreign Minister later told Czech Television that he said the actions gave an outward impression of racism but that he had not described them as racist.
Mr. Nečas said the comments were rash and that he saw no racist subtext in the expulsions which have been championed by French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has attacked French president
Nicolas Sarkozy over the country’s ongoing expulsion of Roma or gypsies
originally from Romania. In an interview with the daily Lidove noviny, Mr.
Schwarzenberg said it was impossible not to suspect that a racist
perspective played a role in the ongoing expulsions. He said the move was
against the spirit and position of the European Union.
Mr. Schwarzenberg also criticized the French president for the organization of a world summit on the Roma issue in Paris on September 6. The Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria, countries which host large Roma populations and certainly would have something to contribute, have not been invited to the summit. Canada, which has reimposed visas on Czechs because citizens from the Roma minority were seeking asylum, has been invited.
The Czech government’s nominee responsible for human rights, Michael Kocáb, said the Paris summit should not seek to decide people’s fates in their absence. The Czech Republic currently heads a multinational initiative on Roma rights grouping countries from central and southern Europe.
Prague councillors on Tuesday approved a controversial plan to create a special camp for the city’s homeless somewhere in the suburbs; a place where they would be given food and shelter, while remaining conveniently out of sight. Councillors argue that this will bring relief to both the general public and the homeless. However, human rights activists and non-profit groups have raised an outcry against what they see as a dangerous policy of segregation.
Prague councillors have approved a controversial plan to create a special camp for the city’s homeless. The initiator of the plan, Jiří Janeček of the Civic Democrats, said on Tuesday the camp should open within six months. Members of the homeless community will not be forced to move in, but social workers will put pressure on them to do so. Non profit groups working with the homeless, including the Salvation Army, have criticised the plan. A representative of the charity Naděje said services should be provided to homeless people where they are: in the centre of the city. The camp will most likely be built in the suburb of Malešice; however, the location has not yet received approval, and two other areas have also been suggested.
Prague councillors are planning to re-open debate on a plan which would see homeless people evicted from the city centre to a specially allocated place in the suburbs. Councillor Jiří Janeček, who drafted the proposal, says it would have numerous advantages, letting homeless people live as they like without being bothered by frequent police checks and orders to move elsewhere. Mr. Janeček describes the homeless colony as an oasis – where the homeless could be taken by mini-buses and where special workers could provide assistance and prevent conflicts. Human rights activists and NGOs are shocked by the proposal, saying that it is a plan to build a ghetto from which homeless people would find it impossible to return to a normal life.
A fresh survey by the NGO Forum 50%, which strives for equal rights for both genders, suggests that towns and villages in the Czech Republic spend significantly more on men’s needs and interests than women’s. According to the survey, seven out of eight municipalities favored men in their budget distribution. In one case, only 18 percent of a town’s funds went to activities and resources for women. The author of the analysis, Marcela Adamusová, explains the main findings of the study.
Around 150 far-right extremists marched through Svitavy on Saturday in support of skinhead Vlastimil Pechanec, who received a 17-year jail term for the killing of a Romany man in the town. The protestors chanted slogans including ‘show trials’ and ‘Pechanec isn’t a murderer’. Meanwhile, around 30 anti-racism campaigners gathered at the bar where he stabbed Ota Absolon twice in 2001. Absolon, who was 30, died in hospital a few hours later.
The city council in east Bohemian town of Svitavy has approved demonstrations of both right-wing extremists and their opponents on a single afternoon in late July. The municipal police are preparing extensive safety measures and the routes of the two groups are to be kept apart. Roughly 120 right-wing extremists marched on Svitavy last year; they were met by an anti-racism demonstration of some 70 people.
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