A new crisis situation handbook for Roma

This summer, Britain introduced immigration controls at Prague's Ruzyne airport in an attempt to curb the influx of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, the vast majority of whom are from the country's Roma minority. The reasons why hundreds of members of one of the Czech Republic's largest ethnic minorities seek better lives in Western Europe are both economic and social. The Roma generally have a low level of education, and find it difficult to find work. But some say it is hard to asses who is at fault, the Roma themselves, or racial prejudice on the part of the majority white population. Nevertheless, racial discrimination against the Roma minority is perceived as a matter of fact, and not just in the Czech Republic. Vladimir Tax reports on a new project aimed at informing the Roma and other ethnic minorities on how to behave in situations when faced with discrimination and for dealing with the state authorities.

Earlier this week, a new crisis situation handbook was published. The handbook was issued by the Roma civic association ATHINGANOI, whose members are mainly Roma students. It has been sponsored by the Czech government's inter-ministerial committee for Roma affairs and the British Embassy's Know How Fund. Steve O'Connor from the Know How Fund explained the main idea behind the project:

"The idea of providing information to people who really need it in a simple and understandable manner. One of the things we are interested in is raising the general level of awareness and understanding amongst the population at large, not just focussing on Romanies, but also the level of civic engagement, the civic understanding of their position in relation to the law."

Czech MP, Monika Mihalickova, who is of Roma origin herself, and is also involved in the project, told Radio Prague about the handbook's contents:

"The handbook for crisis situations is meant to be an easy-to-understand guide in four different situations the Roma and other minorities often have to face, that is denied access to public places, discrimination in employment, physical assaults, and an arrest or other contact with the police."

Mr. O'Connor believes racial prejudice is a problem that many countries, not just the Czech Republic, have to face. He reiterated the British government's commitment to help the Czech Republic resolve the situation.

"I think the whole issue of racial discrimination, racial prejudice and racial violence in the Czech Republic is still not very clearly defined and it is very difficult say how big it is, it is a problem. One of the things I really do feel important to emphasize is that the British government sees it as a Czech problem. It is a problem every country has, and in the United Kingdom, we have exactly the same problems. What we attempt to do is to assist the Czechs in developing systems which would help sort these problems out."