Asylum policy, education of Roma, still problematic, says Czech human rights commissioner

The Czech commissioner for human rights, Jan Jarab, on Tuesday presented a largely positive report to the government on steps taken this past year to guarantee fair and just treatment for some of the most vulnerable people in Czech society.

Human rights commissioner Jan Jarab says that notable progress has been made in several key areas but told Radio Prague on Wednesday that two areas in particular remain a concern: the Czech policy on asylum-seekers and steps to integrate Roma children into the educational system.

When processing asylum claims the Czech authorities often turn over personal data of applicants to their home countries. Mr Jarab says that supplying such information to an oppressive government can place the applicant and his or her family in danger and should therefore remain confidential.

As for the education of Roma children, for whom Czech is often not their mother tongue, the commissioner for human rights says that progress has been made in that fewer of them were being shuttled into so-called "special schools" for slow learners.

Mr Jarab says that placing Roma children in pre-school programmes has proven extremely effective in preparing them to attend normal elementary schools. However, the new law on education still gives local authorities control over the scope of these preparatory classes, he says, and some districts are not implementing appropriate programmes.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has implemented important measures related to women smuggled into the Czech Republic, often against their will, to work as prostitutes. They are now are offered greater support and protection should they wish to give evidence against the criminal traffickers, Mr Jarab notes in his report.