Roma face housing segregation in the Czech Republic, new report says

The Open Society Institute has just released a report on the housing and social care made available to the Roma minorities of Central Europe. In the report, called On the Margins, human rights lawyer Ina Zoon claims that local authorities in the Czech Republic have segregated housing policies that abuse the human and social rights of the Roma minority, and she has provided a list of recommendations to resolve the situation. Nick Carey spoke to Ina Zoon and asked her how widespread such segregation is in the Czech Republic:

Ina Zoon: There are two processes. One is the process of evictions and the creation of ghettos, and building up racial segregation. Another one involves preventing Roma applicants from getting back into municipal housing, as limited as this housing is in the Czech Republic. So I would say that the first part of the process is systematic. We can it throughout the entire Czech Republic. It is hardly possible today to find a municipality where you will not find a Roma ghetto somewhere on the margin of the city, so I would say that it is quite systematic and not only tolerated but fostered by local authorities.

Radio Prague: What is being done in the Czech Republic to try to prevent this?

IZ: Well, unfortunately, I don't see much. The Czech authorities do not recognise the existence of racial segregation in the Czech Republic. It is simply denied. Discrimination is recognised, but not racial segregation. But I definitely hope that this will change in the future.

RP: What are your recommendations for change?

IZ: Well, the recommendations deal first with the adoption of coherent anti-discrimination legislation, in line with the race directives of the European Community. The second recommendation is a thorough review of Czech legislation and especially the decisions of local councils, and the elimination of provisions that have a discriminatory nature. Another recommendation is the creation of a coherent system of monitoring of the respect for social rights.

RP: What reaction do you expect from local authorities and the national authorities in the Czech Republic?

IZ: The local authorities are different, but from the national authorities I expect a more open reaction and especially from the bodies that deal with human rights. Of course, the temptation for the Czech authorities, as is the case for other authorities, is to deny the existence of racism and to deny the existence of discrimination, which is the usual, defensive first moment. I definitely hope that the Czech authorities will be able to overcome this first temptation, consider the recommendations calmly and adopt whatever measures they consider appropriate.