Can Britain expect to see a new wave of Czech Roma asylum applicants?
Over the past few days, some sixty members of the Roma minority have attempted to travel to Great Britain, just to be turned back at the Czech-German border. Whilst they all had return tickets and the necessary insurance, German border officials said that many failed to prove they had enough money for their stay. In recent years several thousand Roma have applied for asylum abroad, and the Czech Republic has often been accused of not doing enough to support its Roma minority. Giving reasons such as fear for their safety and discrimination, many Roma have attempted to live elsewhere. With the developments of the last few days, can Britain expect to see a new wave of Czech Roma asylum applicants? And to what extent are their attempts to seek asylum justified? Dita Asiedu spoke to the Director of the office of the Council for Roma Community Affairs and started off by asking him what he thought to have been the reasons behind the recent trips to Britain:
"Of course there is widespread discrimination of Roma in this country but a different thing is to ask for asylum because you may ask for asylum not because you are discriminated but because the state is prosecuting you for your religious belief, ethnic background or otherwise, or fails to protect you against racial attacks. I don't think that any of these two things are happening."
"No. Certainly not. Because the housing market is deadlocked in the Czech republic and the owners of the housing estates are more sever in their demands that people should pay rent, that people should pay their bills and unfortunately many members of the Roma community are unable to do so. So we are witnessing a lot of evictions of so-called non-payers of rent and there is very little that can be done in the short-term because it means that these people need some low-cost housing, which is not available. I think the only approach might be extensive social work, known in the west as street work, which may provide individual help for these people."
"It is a hot topic in the media because the threat of the British imposing the visa policy affects all citizens of the Czech Republic. There are about 600.000 people traveling back and forth between Britain and the Czech Republic and there is a strong will on the Czech and British sides not to resort to visa policies. It's the people who excercise this asylum tourism who are effectively harming our relationship with Great Britain and the media, of course, are following that."