Roma asylum seekers return to Slovakia

A group of Slovak Roma who entered the Czech Republic two weeks ago are on the move again--back to Slovakia. In recent months, nearly four hundred Slovak citizens have sought asylum in the Czech Republic, but some are now returning home. Linda Mastalir reports.

Nearly two weeks ago a group of about 170 Slovak citizens traveled to the Czech Republic - but they weren't going on vacation. Instead, this group, composed primarily of Slovak Roma, applied for asylum in the Czech Republic. On Monday, twenty-five members of this group decided to return to Slovakia, and last week 38 other applicants who had been waiting in a refugee camp in northern Moravia also chose to go back home. These particular asylum seekers chose to return to Slovakia voluntarily even before the rulings on their asylum requests had been granted.

Since January, 383 Slovak citizens have asked for asylum in the Czech Republic, but according to the Foreign Ministry, none of the applications have been approved. According to Czech law, anyone who is discriminated against because of race, religion, nationality, or political opinions may apply for asylum. The Czech Republic also grants asylum on humanitarian grounds. Many of the Slovak Roma who have applied for asylum in recent months have done so on the basis of racial discrimination and economic considerations. Dissatisfaction with the political situation in Slovakia is also frequently mentioned, though conditions have improved since the fall of Vladimir Meciar's government.

Currently, there are 314 refugee claimants awaiting the outcome of their applications in the Czech Republic; meanwhile, they are living in refugee accommodation run by the Ministry of the Interior, their fate still unclear.