One of the gravest problems facing Czech society is the situation of the country’s Romany minority. According to official estimates, there are between 150,000 and 300,000 Romanies living in the country; they face disproportionately high unemployment and continued discrimination in housing and education. Some 80,000 of them live in socially excluded locations. To assist the local authorities in improving the living conditions in such cities and towns, the Czech government set up in 2009 the Agency for Social Inclusion in Romany Localities. The agency
A new report by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, sees “deeply-rooted anti-Gypsyism” as one of the main obstacles to Roma’s inclusion in the Czech society. The report, which was released in Brussels on Thursday, also highlights continued segregation that the country’s Roma community faces in education and housing. Mr Hammarberg, who visited the Czech Republic in November 2010, noted frequent racist and anti-Roma discourse among leading politicians and the media, and said the country should strengthen its efforts and implement inclusive policies.
A Czech court gave out jail sentence of up to four years on a group of youths who carried out a racial attack on a Roma teenager. The regional court in the eastern city of Ostrava gave out two four-year sentence and one of three years. Three others in the group were given suspended sentence for the attack in the nearby town of Havířov. Another two were acquitted due because of a lack of evidence. Their victim suffered serious head injuries with the court told that he could have been killed during the attack in November 2008.
Two homeless people are believed to have frozen to death overnight as temperatures in Prague dropped to minus 17 degrees Celsius, the ctk news agency reported on Wednesday. The two cases were otherwise unrelated and autopsies are expected to confirm the cause of death. Twenty-three people have frozen to death in Prague since the onset of winter and over 150 people are reported to have been treated for hypothermia.
Mayors from 51 communities across the Czech Republic met this week to discuss problems their constituencies are having with transients, loiterers and petty criminals, most of whom the towns say are Roma. The result was a letter to the government asking for greater local authority to dissuade and punish problematic citizens. The specific measures though are controversial.
Interior Minister Radek John has said that the government will name a new human rights and minorities commissioner in the coming days. The post has been empty for months, after the former commissioner Michael Kocáb was recalled. Speaking on Czech TV on Sunday, Minister John said he had been told a concrete name by the prime minster, as had Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who reportedly gave his backing. According to reports, the candidate for the post is a woman. Last autumn, there was speculation the job could be given to former Green Party MP Kateřina Jacques, but that was flatly denied by Prime Minister Nečas.
The visual history archive of the Shoa Foundation of University of Southern California contains more than 50,000 testimonies of holocaust survivors. A year ago, Prague became one of three European locations where the complete database can be accessed. The database should soon be extended by testimonies from the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, that will also be made accessible from the Czech capital. In this edition of One on One, RP talked to the Czech filmmaker Martin Šmok, who works with the foundation and even shot filmed of the material.
Around 40 football hooligans clashed with the police in the northern city of Ostrava on Friday night. The police fired warning shots to disperse the crowd; two police officers we injured and four hooligans arrested, a spokeswoman for the Ostrava police said. The violence broke out after a police patrol entered an Ostrava bar, frequented by hooligans and neo-Nazis. The spokeswoman said the officers’ presence in the bar provoked an aggressive response from the crowd who pushed them out of the bar. The patrol called for reinforcements; when several dozen police officers arrived at the scene, they were attacked by some 40 hooligans. The situation calmed down only after one of the police officers fired warning shots, the spokeswoman added.
Interior Minister Radek John has said he will strengthen the police unit
in the town of Nový Bydžov in the Hradec Králové region in the case of
heightened crime incidence. The minister made a statement on Thursday
meeting with Mayor Pavel Louda and regional police chief Petr Přibyl.
Since last autumn, Nový Bydžov had claimed a rise in crime by Romany
residents, which led more than 3,000 local non-Roma to sign a petition for
security to be increased.
Tensions among the population reached a peak last November following the rape of a young woman. In response, the town hall issued a highly controversial statement regarding the local Roma community and said it would hire the services of a private security agency. The interior minister has tried to defuse tensions by saying that such a solution was not a good idea. He also pointed out that the statistics had not actually shown an increase in crime. Mr John, the local police chief and the mayor did agree local crimes needed to be properly investigated and prosecuted swiftly.
A sociological study, released by Gabal Analysis and Consulting, shows that a staggering 40 percent of Romany children drop out of elementary school and never go back, a figure that is eight times higher than the national average. The study, based on data collected from 14 elementary schools over the past five years, highlights one of the basic problems underlying an endless vicious circle of discrimination of the country’s Romany minority. Kumar Vishwanatan, a community worker who works with the Roma in one of the country’s poorest districts, says
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