Czech-Romany relations hit low point, says government report
A week after Ottawa brought back visas for Czech citizens over the large numbers of Czech Romanies seeking asylum in Canada, the Czech government put out a report on the state of Romany communities in the Czech Republic for 2008. The report is bleak: Czech-Romany relations are bad, it says, and will be difficult to fix.
“In 2007, this woman was forced by a social worker to undergo sterilization. The social worker threatened her that her children would be taken away and put into a children’s home. The woman was scared, and underwent forced sterilization.”
The minister for human rights and minorities, Michael Kocáb informed the Czech government of the case on Monday. It underlined the bleak situation of the Czech Romany as Mr Kocáb also presented his colleagues with the report on the state of the Romany communities for 2008. The report says that Romanies in the Czech Republic face general discrimination. A surge in right-wing extremism, poor social conditions and a growing gap between the majority and minority population is driving increasing numbers of Romanies abroad. One of the authors of the report is Gabriela Hrabáňová, the head of the government’s council on Romany issues.
“Since unemployment is generally rising in the Czech Republic, among those affected are also Romanies. That’s one side of the problem. The other is that the rise in extremism and the general attitude towards the Roma are not getting any better. So the Roma simply no longer want to experience discrimination against them in everyday life, and they decide to leave the country.”
The report, and the news of the forced sterilization case, came less than a week after Canada reinstated visas for Czech citizens. The reason is a 400 or so percent increase in Romany asylum seekers in that country this year.
“I believe that adequate repression is necessary in this matter because the system gets abused. Look, if people did not get the benefits twice, we wouldn’t be doing this. But as long as there are people ‘parasiting’ on the system that’s paid for with public funds, with our taxes, our duty is to take care of it, and repression is adequate.”
Mr Volák says his town does many things for the Romanies already. But some of them will abuse the system all the same, and that should stop.
Gabriela Hrabáňová, from the government’s Romany issues council, says a new strategy of Romany integration should be ready by October. It would provide municipalities with advice on how to treat poor living conditions of the Romanies, bring them out of ghettos, and motivate them to send their children to school. But Ms Hrabáňová also believes it would help if people realized that there might be other reasons than social benefits that make Romanies leave the Czech Republic.
“Those who go abroad seeking the economic conditions, it’s not just because of their economic situation, but also their social situation. It’s very much about being an invisible minority and living in a country where your work, whatever it is, is considered important.”