Prague Exodus: Under British Pressure, Czechs Try to Keep Roma from Leaving


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Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2001 10:30:50 +0300 (EEST)
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Subject: Prague Exodus: Under British Pressure, Czechs Try to Keep Roma from Leaving

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Ariel Eliyahu <eli-ari@inter.net.il>

Prague Exodus: Under British Pressure, Czechs Try to Keep
Roma from Leaving


Original sender: Carmen Gavin <gavi0022@tc.umn.edu> 
 
There was an article in today's Süddeutsche Zeitung about the Prague
airport situation.  
For those that can read German, the article is at:   
http://www.sueddeutsche.de/aktuell/sz/artikel67137.php
For those that can't, a rough translation is below:

Prague Exodus: Under British Pressure, Czechs Try to Keep Roma from
Leaving
 
Thousands of Roma leave each year from the Czech Republic and seek
their fortune in other European countries or overseas. Especially
desirable is Great Britain. Three thousand, five hundred Czech Roma
have applied for asylum there in only the past three years.  In order
to clamp down on this wave of refugees, the British immigration
office, in agreement with the Czech government, has placed controls on
Prague airports for the last three weeks.  
 
It was mostly Roma that were taken as a precaution from the waiting
lines and not allowed on the planes. In total, 120 people were refused
the trip to Great Britain. Since this Thursday, the controversial
measure was again reversed. Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan is
pleased with the goal of the action. He pointed out that in the last
three weeks before the beginning of the control there were 204 asylum
applications, and afterwards, only 12. "Abuse of British asylum cannot
be tolerated," he said. Because Roma from Czechoslovakia were in most
cases sent back, the Czech nation gains status as one in which human
rights are valued. As long as the asylum process continues, the
applicants can claim rights to British social assistance.  That is
exactly what the Roma are being accused of.  
 
Should the number of asylum-seekers rise again after the reversal of
the controls, the British officials will return, warned Kavan. It will
by all means be avoided that London does visa duty for Czechs. That
occurred in 1997 in Canadian immigration, when hundreds of Roma
families immigrated there. Still, the sorting out of people entering
through the airports has been the subject of argument in
Czechoslovakia.  
 
Parliament president Vaclav Klaus condemned the control of British
officials over Prague airports as an offense to Czech sovereignity.
And Czech President Vaclav Havel admonished that one should first look
for the reason for the Roma exodus. He sees the cause in the
increasing racism within Czech society.  
 
Roma see themselves as constantly discriminated against and pushed to
the edge by the majority of people, despite praisworthy government
support programs, some of which are even financed from London. Just
half of all Roma in Czechoslovakia live in constant fear of violent
attack, according to a survey from the Prague daily Mlada Fronta Dnes.
Just recently, a Rom in east Bohemian Svitavy who wanted to enter a
disco was killed by a right-wing radical. Attacks from right-wing
extremists have, according to official statements, taken the lives of
eight Roma since 1990. More than 70% of Czech Roma have had to endure
insults due to their dark skin color.  Two young Roma women were
refused entry into a bar just this past week.  
 
Roma children are often sent to special schools.  And Roma are often
the first to lose their jobs.  Due to their low qualifications, they
don't have a good chance of finding more work. In the 50's the
communist regime in Czechoslovakia prohibited the Roma from
travelling. Because of this, the Roma were supposed to become settled.
Many Roma were settled out of Slovakia in the north Bohemian industry
region, where, after the expulsion of the Sudenten Germans, there was
a need for workers. After the change, however, many of the businesses
closed. 
 
Other Czechs frequently accuse the Roma groups of closing themselves
off and refusing to be assimilated. "Many Roma have accepted that they
will never rise in our society, so they just live for the day,"
explains social worker Jan Cerny. The twenty-eight year old leads a
community center on Maticni Street, in Usti nad Labem (Aussig), where
in fall of 1999, a wall between Czech homes and a Roma settlement was
erected. International protests forced its demolition. In the meeting
center, Roma children receive before-school instruction, and their
parents can be advised about social issues. Facilities like this,
which are still a rarity, will also contribute in the future to less
Roma leaving their home.

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