Roma discrimination recognised but not addressed

Roma Children

To hear the following story in Real Audio, click here: by Nicole Klemenet

In recent years, the Czech Republic has received repeated international criticism of the way it treats its Roma minority. And a fresh report, released by the Open Society Institute in Brussels on Thursday, is no exception. The report states that although the Czech government has finally recognised that discrimination against the Roma exists, and has launched programmes to fight it, little has changed. Furthermore, it claims that there is insufficient legislation to prevent discrimination, and laws that do exist are poorly applied. All too often, the Roma face deep-rooted prejudice, which frequently results in violent attacks. RP's Nicole Klement spoke with Markus Pape from the European Roma Rights Centre about this issue:

"As a consultant for the European Roma rights centre in Prague, I would like to say that we have recommended that the Czech Republic create an institution that will take care of the elimination of racial discrimination of Roma in this country. So far such an institution does not exist here. We believe that it is not enough to assure that there is no law that allows racial discrimination but there should also be institutions that would be responsible to ensure that there is no racial discrimination even if it's not possible to prosecute them by legal action. I agree that there is this problem here and I believe that is one of the reasons why many Roma decided to leave this country and seek asylum abroad."

And could you tell me what percentage of the Czech population is Roma?

"We can only estimate, and we can only rely on the government's statistics from last year, the governmental commission for human rights published the governmental program for the integration of Roma, and in the report it says that there are 200, 000 Roma in this country."

Could you also tell me about some of the types of discrimination that the Roma are fleeing from?

"The most visible discrimination is in public life, for instance when a Roma person goes to a restaurant very often they are told that they will not be served. And in only very few cases is it possible to prove this because trade inspection here in the Czech Republic does not work very well. We know only of one case where this type of defamation of Roma is being prosecuted."

What are the penalties for racially motivated crimes or discrimination here in the Czech Republic?

"Actually there is no law talking about discrimination. There exists only an article of the panel law on defamation. Just let me add that we feel the most severe discrimination is taking place in the educational sector and that although the Roma population is a minority, 75% of the pupils of schools for mentally retarded children are Roma children. We believe this is one of the biggest causes of the whole problem, that by the racial discrimination in the educational sector many Roma end up on the street and do not have access to employment and no chance to achieve a better position in society."

That was Marcus Pape from the European Roma Rights Centre talking with Radio Prague's Nicole Klement.

Author: Nicole Klement
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