A 73-year-old woman in the restive town of Varnsdorf was violently attacked on Friday, apparently because she bore the same last name as one of the organisers of recent anti-Roma demonstrations, Lukáš Kohout. She was knocked down by two masked men who injured her face and told her “that was for your son”. Police however said that there was no apparent racial aspect to the attack, and added that the woman is of no relation to Kohout. Lukaš Kohout is a notorious fraudster, well-known for having passed himself off as a government official on numerous occasions and for provoking police and demonstrators at protests.
A demonstration against local Roma planned for Saturday in the North Bohemian town of Rumburk has been cancelled. The organiser of the event officially withdrew his request for the assembly, saying he had been pressured specifically to do so. An influential local businessman had apparently publicly threatened to ban the organiser from various premises if he went ahead with the protest. The same individual organised the first large demonstration in the area several weeks ago, which later turned into an unplanned march through the town. Plans for a demonstration against the Roma are underway in nearby Varnsdorf. The area has seen a sharp increase in racial tensions over the past month that have spilled over into violence on some occasions.
The Czech Republic is experiencing something unseen in its modern history. After two decades of neglecting the problems of the country’s Romany minority, ethnic and social tensions erupted last month in a remote northern Bohemian district of Šluknov where thousands of people take to the streets every weekend to protest against the Romanies and their lifestyle.
The town of Rumburk has rejected a proposal from local Roma to form their own civil patrols. Rumburk Town Hall said it was not against conscientious Roma providing neighbourly assistance for one another, but that patrols as such would have no authority. The town also rejected a request for non-residential spaces for youth centres on the grounds that other locals would not be given such benefits, and that it would be better in any case for Roma to integrate more with others.
The Czech government has approved a national strategy to combat poverty and social exclusion. The three-year plan calls for dozens of measures aimed at improving the security, housing, education and employment of low-income housing residents at a cost of billions of crowns. A number of the measures are to ensure that children from such communities are integrated into society and have the same conditions as others. Others envision programmes against hate crime and flexible work programmes on public projects for the long-term unemployed. According to available statistics there are some 400 slums around the country with an estimated 80.000 inhabitants, predominantly from the Roma minority.
Amidst social and ethnic unrest in parts of the country caused by growing tension between the majority population and Romanies, the Czech government on Wednesday adopted a strategy to combat the social exclusion of the Romany minority. Over the next four years, the government plans to spend up to 15 billion crowns on a series of measures ranging from fighting crime to improving the education of Romany children.
Prague’s sizeable Vietnamese community recently held its first ever day of Vietnamese culture, an open event in the centre of town which drew a mixed crowd of Vietnamese and Czechs. What has been a rather closed society appears to be slowly opening up to outsiders, as Czech-born Vietnamese become increasingly confident about their identity and Czechs learn there is more to Vietnamese people than an army of convenience store proprietors.
As the authorities struggle to deal with growing racial tension in the north of the country, the town of Čáslav, east of Prague is ringing alarm bells and taking steps to prevent a similar scenario unfolding on its own premises. With between 100 and 150 Romanies newly arrived in town, Čáslav is scrambling to prevent the creation of a ghetto and approving strict measures to ensure law and order.
The cabinet is to meet on Wednesday to discuss growing racial tension in the north of the country, Romany ghettos and social exclusion. Ministers are expected to debate a comprehensive strategy aimed at fighting social exclusion of Romanies in the spheres of education, housing, employment, health care and security. According to available statistics there are some 400 Romany ghettoes around the country with an estimated 80.000 inhabitants. The vast majority of adults living in them are jobless. A rise in racially motivated crime in the north of the country in recent weeks has escalated tension between the majority population and the Romany minority with calls for their eviction.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas visited Northern Bohemia on Monday where the local authorities have been struggling to deal with growing racial tension and a wave of anti-Romany sentiment. Mr Nečas visited ghettos, talked to local inhabitants and debated specific measures with community representatives. In Nový Bor he thanked the locals for showing restraint in their protests and not supporting extremist groupings which have tried to use the crisis for their own ends. Extremist demonstrations and public gatherings have been taking place in the region since August, when several violent, apparently racially-motivated conflicts occurred. Local forums held to discuss the situation have criticised negligence on the part of the police and town halls and a liberal social welfare system.
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