Expert questions plan for Ukrainian Roma refugees
Over the last week there have been reports of Ukrainian Roma refugees sleeping at Prague’s Main Train Station, sometimes for up to 10 days, as they wait to be granted temporary protection. As a stopgap solution, a tent city has been erected in the Troja district to provide accommodation for them. I spoke to Magda Faltová, director of the Association for Integration and Migration, to get her take on the situation.
Who is to blame for the situation with the Ukrainian Roma refugees at the train station?
“I think it’s not an easy answer.
“I believe that it’s the joint responsibility of the state and the city to set up the framework for people to access protection and also access at least basic accommodation, and to set up the basic needs for those who are, for whatever reason, not able to get the protection, either because they’re waiting for the procedure to be assessed, or because they are declined but they cannot return to their home country.
“And all this can be done with the support of NGOs and civil society, but it cannot be the sole responsibility of civil society.”
And what do you make of the plans for the tent city in Troja?
“Well, I think and I really hope that it’s an emergency measure, something that’s going to be really very temporary and we all know it’s not the best solution – it’s not even a solution because the capacity of the tents is 150 people and there are more people than that right now at the railway station.
“The authorities claim that this is only for those who are waiting for the decision about their temporary protection, for whom the process has already been started. But there are many who, as I mentioned before, didn’t get to the procedure yet or their application was declined, or they have protection but they just don’t have accommodation.
“So it’s a partial measure, but as a whole I don’t think it’s going to help much, and it has quite a lot of risks for people who will be accommodated there as well as for the way that we deal with homeless people.”
There was a lot of solidarity for the refugees in the beginning and everybody wanted to help – do you think that is still the case or is it changing?
“I think there is still a lot of solidarity, but there are some changes already. We can see that there are voices in society that feel left behind or not supported, they feel that more support goes to people from Ukraine.
“So we see more and more problems, and we also see people who are tired from the situation. The help and the support and showing solidarity – it’s something that can be very difficult and demanding.
“And we see that for the next few months there will be a huge issue with access to accommodation for people who are now temporarily accommodated, and we are really worried that there won’t be enough accommodation provided by people, by the general public. And again we are missing answers from the authorities on how to deal with the accommodation of people who are facing this.”