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Europe Roma International plans demonstration against neo-Nazism in front of Czech embassies worldwide

London/Prague, 29.8.2013 21:02, (ROMEA)
On 24 August 2013 an anti-Roma march by neo-Nazis ended in clashes with police. The most serious incidents took place at the intersection of Mariánskohorská and Nádražní  Streets. Police officers stopped the neo-Nazis who were doing their best to attack Romani residents. Rocks, smoke bombs, firecrackers and garbage cans were sent flying through the air. Police officers used tear gas several times. (PHOTO:  Czech News Agency)
On 24 August 2013 an anti-Roma march by neo-Nazis ended in clashes with police. The most serious incidents took place at the intersection of Mariánskohorská and Nádražní Streets. Police officers stopped the neo-Nazis who were doing their best to attack Romani residents. Rocks, smoke bombs, firecrackers and garbage cans were sent flying through the air. Police officers used tear gas several times. (PHOTO: Czech News Agency)

The Europe Roma International political movement has issued a declaration on the overall situation in the Czech Republic and is calling for a series of anti-racist demonstrations worldwide. The text condemns both right-wing extremists and the owners and operators of residential hotels in the country.

The authors of the declaration also criticize members of the Romani community themselves. The statement ends by calling on Czech society to resolve these problems together with Romani people.

Demonstrations for upholding human rights and against rising neo-Nazism have been called for 3 September 2013 at 14:00 (15:00 in Great Britain) in front of Czech embassies in the following states: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the USA. In Prague a demonstration will also take place in front of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (nábřeží Edvarda Beneše 4, Praha 1).

Declaration of Europe Roma International

We Romani people are an integral component of Czech society. We are fans of the Czech national sports teams, we celebrate their victories, and we drown our sorrows when they lose. We listen to Czech music, we attend the concerts of Czech singers, and our children know Czech folk songs. We watch Czech films and our family members often quote them to one another.

We are citizens of the Czech Republic, part of the multiethnic whole that is collectively called the Czech nation. Czech culture has become a part of our lives, and Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia are our homeland, our native country. 

We condemn theft and violence

We condemn all incidents of theft and violence irrespective of the ethnicity of the perpetrators and we feel sympathy for the victims of such crimes. Many of us have also been crime victims and have experienced the same feelings as other people who have been harmed.

When the perpetrator of a crime is of Romani origin, we are even more outraged by the collective blame which is attributed to all Romani people by a large part of Czech society, often in concert with racialized media coverage. The nature of all crime is, from a general standpoint, becoming more brutal in our country, compassion and humanity are disappearing, and perpetrators are, irrespective of their ethnicity, becoming more and more aggressive. None of us doubt this fact.

We condemn the actions of all perpetrators, irrespective of ethnicity, and we reject the attribution of collective blame for crimes committed by specific Romani individuals. We do not bear any responsibility for the individuals of our nation, nor for any other citizens, just as Czechs do not bear collective blame for the attacks committed against some of our people.

We consider it very important for each crime to be objectively, properly punished by the criminal justice system. We are living in a modern society, and the punishment to be delivered for crimes is determined by an impartial court system. Such punishment does not belong in the hands of individuals. 

No jobs

Many of us work in factories, for construction companies, in the health care sector, in the schools, in the hospitality sector, in culture, in social services, in the state administration, in banking, and in many other fields. There are also entrepreneurs among us, primarily in construction work.

Unfortunately, a high percentage of Romani families remain unemployed because of their ethnicity (employers claim they have had bad experiences with Romani workers and there is widespread xenophobia, as well as the already-mentioned "collective blame"), because many of us live in regions where there is not enough work, and because many of us have only low levels of educational achievement and low qualifications. In some families, the cause of long-term unemployment is also the indolence that has resulted from losing their work habits. 

We are amazed by the "moving mania" that is underway, in which some Romani families from big cities are moving into small towns and villages where even local lifelong residents have long been out of work.

We are aware that employment is our community's most important priority. Many steps taken by politicians in the Czech Republic have, on the contrary, reduced job opportunities for all unemployed citizens, irrespective of ethnicity.

What about business development?

We consider it incomprehensible that the previous government has not invested into the citizens of the Czech Republic being able to develop businesses, as the strength of the national economy's development is based in such businesses. Instead, the government supported foreign companies, a high percentage of which have already closed their operations in the Czech Republic. 

We do not understand why the state does not support business programs to directly provide jobs and instead finances programs of the sort that provide instruction in "writing your CV", or "how to communicate during a job interview". We also consider re-qualification courses to be ineffective without a subsequent opportunity to work for a specific firm.

Welfare

Welfare is supposed to aid people in distress. It is not supposed to be a long-term, permanent source of income that demotivates people so that they stop living actively. This demotivation can also spark depression. When combined with very bad social situations and repression, this leads to increased crime, drug use, prostitution, and gambling, especially when people have only low educational achievements. 

We refute the demagogic claim that Romani people are drawing more welfare compared to other groups in the Czech Republic, as well as the claim that some welfare is intended for Romani people only. All welfare is calculated using the same spreadsheets and every Czech citizen in social distress can make use of it.

Social inclusion and subsidy policy

The European Union, the Government of the Czech Republic, and foundations are investing no small amount of money into the inclusion of socially vulnerable Romani families, but these monies are being used very inefficiently. We agree with the projects aiming to educate social workers in the Romani community - but then there is no funding to hire these people once they are educated. 

The subsidy policy is slanted toward inefficient programs. This policy is not being designed by Romani organizations and their representatives, but is being designed solely by the authorities of the EU and the Czech Republic without first negotiating their content with Romani people. These subsidies are not disbursed by Romani representatives and they have no opportunity to influence the course of these tenders, the use of these funds, or the monitoring of their use.

Some Romani organizations have been convicted of financial fraud, but not all of them should be condemned because of that. We would welcome it if all organizations were to be audited annually by independent bodies.

We disagree with nonprofit organizations and activists acting on behalf of the entire Romani community and influencing the lives of our families.

We demand that these subsidies be used effectively for preschool education, active recreation, and the support of direct employment. 

The "business" of residential hotel operators

Currently many Romani families are living in unsuitable residential hotels, very often because they have been held responsible, within the framework of "collective blame", for other parties not having paid for all the services used in a previous place of residence.

The operators of these residential hotels (which would otherwise be half-empty at this point) have ensured themselves a trouble-free "business" through accessing state housing benefits to the detriment of the Romani families living in their properties, as well as the taxpayers. More than 90 % of the owners of these residential hotels and apartment buildings are people of Czech nationality. The question, therefore, is who is to blame for the situation in some localities. If both sides had upheld their responsibilities, would everything have gone so wrong?

Our activists, our field social workers and we ourselves always warn families that they must meet their responsibilities, but it is also important that institutions, landlords, residential hotel operators and politicians act without bias.

Against discrimination and hatred

We are against any form of discrimination and against degrading human dignity. These anti-Roma demonstrations are against humanity itself and will only spark more evil.

Incitement to hatred of us has become socially acceptable. This trend is not just dangerous for us, the Roma, but for all citizens of the Czech Republic. Anti-Roma sentiment provides fertile ground for the extremists and their groups. They then exploit us, the Roma, for their own benefit (just as the owners and operators of the residential hotels do). These extremist groups also inveigh on their websites against "adaptable" Jews, gay people, Arabs, and blacks. Today the Roma are being assaulted, but who will it be tomorrow? Last time, this kind of open hatred led to the Second World War.

It is rare for real problems to be discussed at these anti-Roma demonstrations. We have been constantly raising these problems for more than 20 years and demanding their resolution. We should not, as a society, become polarized in our opinions and clash with one another because of them. There is only one common solution, and that is to avail ourselves of open, humane, 21st-century approaches.

Demonstrations against the neo-Nazis

We cannot influence some matters, but we can understand one another and stand on the side of good, of common sense, and demand that the current wrongs be righted.

We call on everyone to demonstrate for the upholding of human rights and against rising neo-Nazism on 3 September 2013 at 14:00 (in Great Britain at 15:00) in front of Czech embassies in the following states: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the USA. In Prague a demonstration will also take place in front of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic.

Ladislav Baláž, Ondřej Jano,
Europe Roma International


fk, Europe Roma International, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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