Muslim leaders from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia came to Prague on Tuesday to share their experiences and to discuss the challenges faced by their communities. The numbers of the Muslim populations in their countries vary significantly, as do their historic backgrounds. But the debate showed that some challenges are shared by Muslims across the region: islamophobia, media bias, and severe legislative restrictions.
The Czech Republic on Monday handed over chairmanship of the Decade of Roma Inclusion project to Macedonia. The project, initiated in 2005 by the World Bank and the Open Society Institute, is an international effort on the part of 8 central and east European countries to tackle a wide range of educational and social disadvantages faced by Roma communities in this part of the world. During its cahirmanship the Czech Republic established five priorities – giving Roma children equal opportunities in education, improving the position of Roma women and children, involving the Roma in local administration and improving the media profile of the Roma minority.
Several hundred neo-Nazis marched on Saturday through the town of Přerov, in the east of the country. The march, organized by the extremist Workers’ Party of Social Justice, passed through the town’s Romany neighbourhood. Hundreds of police officers were deployed to prevent clashed between the neo-Nazis and members of the town Romany community; the police confiscated a handgun and several batons and knives from the extremists. No incidents have so far been reported.
A Prague court on Thursday sent two young males to prison for setting a cottage on fire and killing a homeless man. The incident happened last September, when the four youngsters, aged 14 through 25, attacked three homeless men, who at the time were squatting a hut in a Prague forest. While two of the men were able to escape, the third was killed in the attack. He got trapped in the cellar of the cottage, which the young males set on fire. The court dealt two of the defendants sentences of 11 and 3.5 years, respectively, while the third was handed a probation sentence of one year. The fourth perpetrator was not given a prison sentence due to the fact that he was only fourteen years old when he committed the crime. He is currently in a home for juvenile delinquents.
The civic association IQ Roma Servis has awarded 11 employers with the label “Ethnic Friendly”. Among the companies who were given the label are Frutana Gold, Stavzem and the Museum of Roma Culture. To date, some forty companies and institutions have been labeled ethnically friendly by the civic association. The initiative was inspired by clients of IQ Roma Servis, who frequently experienced discrimination when searching for a job. The initiative aims to highlight employers who do employ citizens of Romani origin and promote equal opportunities for ethnic employees on the country’s labor market. The association has been handing out the label since 2007.
Doctors at Prague’s Bulovka hospital have announced they will be conducting free tests for tuberculosis among Prague’s homeless community. The tests are being paid for by Prague City Hall which wants to isolate sufferers and prevent the spread of the contagious disease. Although the Czech Republic has one of the lowest TB rates in the world, last year doctors registered 662 cases. The homeless are considered a high risk group. President Klaus recently signed an amendment to the law which will formally end the practice of vaccinating newborns against TB across the board.
The number of shops owned by members of the Czech Republic’s sizable Vietnamese minority has now risen to around 3,000, the newspaper Lidové noviny reported on Saturday. Vietnamese immigrants own corner shops selling mainly foodstuffs, as well as clothing stores and nail salons. Their combined turnover is around CZK 30 billion a year. While in the past the Vietnamese were known for running market stalls, the newspaper said in a few years they would be doing business almost exclusively in bricks and mortar shops.
Academicians and NGOs who were to assist the Education Ministry with the task of integrating Romany school children in the education process have abandoned the endeavor and are refusing to cooperate with the ministry further saying it has no intention of making any real progress on the issue. Tomas Habart from the NGO People in Need said the Education Minister Josef Dobes was not serious about tackling the problem and the group set up to deal with it was practically paralyzed as a result of personnel changes made by him. Amnesty International has issued a similar statement saying the Czech Republic is likely to be hit by sanctions for failing to take any action against discrimination of Romany children in the education system.
Prague is currently hosting the thirteenth annual Khamoro festival – a celebration of Roma culture coupled with serious debate about conditions for the Roma minority. Gypsy musicians from as far afield as Hungary, India, France and Norway feature at this year’s festival, which began with a re-enactment of a traditional Romani wedding.
Around 30,000 children, mostly Romanies, are living in socially excluded localities across the Czech Republic, the head of the government agency for social inclusion, Martin Šimáček, said on Thursday. These children are more likely to be segregated in “special schools” or end up in institutional care. The practice of placing Romany children in schools originally intended for children with disabilities has been criticized by the EU and other bodies. Experts also blame the Czech Education ministry for failing to provide support for children from these poverty-stricken areas.
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