British immigration controls renewed at Prague airport

Renewed British-imposed passport control at Prague's airport

British immigration officials renewed controls at Prague's Ruzyne Airport on Monday morning. The number of asylum seekers in Britain, they say, increased during the period after the first controls were lifted just over two weeks ago. The controls have been renewed with the consent of the Czech government, but are meeting with strong criticism from human rights activists, who consider the measures racist. Practically all Czech asylum seekers in Britain are Roma and the vast majority of those refused access to Britain during the three weeks of previous British controls were of Roma origin. So, why do so many Roma want to leave the Czech Republic? Olga Szantova went in search of the answer.

Renewed British-imposed passport control at Prague's airport
I spoke about it with Mrs. Marta Hudeckova, a community worker in the second largest Czech town, Brno. She told me that during her five years of work among the Roma population, she has met with a number of families that sought asylum abroad.

"There was one case, a young married couple, who could not get a job, even though both of them were secondary school graduates. They left for economic reasons, they just couldn't make a living here."

And Marta Hudeckova mentioned another family, which left the country to seek asylum.

"Skinheads beat up their 7 year old son, and they were afraid for their other three children, so they decided to leave."

I asked whether the skinheads who had beaten up the boy were brought up in front of the courts, but it seems there was no trial, because no witnesses were willing to come forward to back up the charges.

Mrs. Hudeckova stresses that she can only speak from her own local experience, but that she sees two main reasons why the Roma tend to leave the country.

"Mostly it's because people are afraid of attacks, or, it's for economic reasons."

In the five years she has been working among the Roma population of Brno, Marta Hudeckova has learned that everything depends on personal attitudes and personal relationships. True, she says, Roma children need equal access to education, but that doesn't solve everything. She knows of many cases where educated or trained Roma cannot get a job, no matter how hard they try. As for Roma children being sent to special schools for the mentally handicapped - she knows of one such school where the teachers take really good care of the children and it's probably better for them to be there than in an ordinary school where they would be ostracized.

So, does emigration present a solution to the existing problems?

"No, it certainly does not. The main thing is for the Roma to have a chance to work, to get jobs and to be treated as equals. That is the real solution."

Author: Olga Szantová
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