New survey finds most Czechs sceptical about Romanies’ integration

A new survey commissioned by the Czech Interior Ministry has revealed that more than 80 percent of Czechs see Romanies as “inadaptable”. The poll also suggests that around 10 percent of the country’s majority population identify with an extreme right agenda.

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The survey has once again highlighted one of the gravest issues of Czech society today. Eighty-three percent of those polled were sceptical about Romanies’ chances of integrating into mainstream society, accusing them of abusing social benefits and crime. More than 20 percent of them also felt that Romanies faced few legal ramifications for their behaviour. The poll also showed that Czechs are prejudiced against foreigners, particularly Muslims as well as against homosexuals and drug addicts but much less so than against Romanies.

Czech Interior Minister Radek John said the results of the survey were alarming. But experts say the poll brought little new information, as the distance between the 250,000 or so strong Romany community and the majority population has widened since the mid 1990s. Sociologist Ivan Gabal says the real issue is the impact of the community’s seclusion on public perception.

“What is a real problem is that long-term social exclusion of half of the Romany minority creates certain feelings among the majority population that Romanies are not able to integrate into the society and the economic system, and that it’s caused by their ethnic background.”

The survey also found that some 90 percent of those who look unfavourably on the Romany community base their views on personal experience. This prompted the interior minister to suggest that Romanies must also reconsider their own attitudes. But Mr Gabal argues such tension mainly arises in and around the ghettos that are home to the socially weakest among the Romanies.

“This creates hard day-to-day coexistence which has not been sufficiently addressed by municipal and government policies to lower the number of people living in ghettos. From this point of view, we can speak of pressure on Romanies to do something about their lives. However, this does not concern 70 percent of the Czech majority, and I think that this interpretation is in a way completely wrong.”

Another 70 percent of those polled identified themselves to a certain extent with the extreme right but only 6 percent would actively support such movements. A detailed analysis of these hard-line supporters shows interesting facts about their own background. Zdeněk Ryšavý is the head of Romea, a Czech Romany advocacy group.

“These are primarily people who are frustrated with their lives, with their jobs, and perhaps with where they live; they also feel underestimated. So these people, who define themselves in opposition to the Romanies, are socially on the same level as the Romanies who find themselves on the bottom end of the social scale.”

One of the few positive results of the recent survey is that some 21 percent of Czechs admit Romanies in the Czech Republic are discriminated against.