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July 6, 2022



Civil society members of the Czech Govt Roma Council after meeting with PM: We submitted our proposals for solutions to the Romani refugee crisis already in March

27.5.2022 12:33
The Czech Government Council on Roma Minority Affairs met on 20 May 2022. (PHOTO:  Cyril Koky)
The Czech Government Council on Roma Minority Affairs met on 20 May 2022. (PHOTO: Cyril Koky)

The volunteer civil society members of the Czech Government Council on Roma Minority Affairs who called for the full advisory body to meet did so on Friday, 20 May, with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala chairing and expressed their distress over the current situation of Romani refugees from Ukraine in the Czech Republic, criticizing the PM for not having convened the council earlier. A statement by the civil society members about this first session of the council in the Fiala administration has been sent to news server by Alica Sigmund Heráková, a volunteer civil society member.

The Council should have met before, there was not enough room for discussion

"We are disappointed that despite the civil society part of the council having called on the Government to convene this advisory body in March, it was not convened then. We proposed specific steps to take toward resolving this situation from the beginning, we contacted the Prime Minister and the Government, and we were involved in addressing the subject of the available housing capacities, but it took until the close of May for our council to meet in full in response to a direct appeal, and by now the situation is alarming," said civil society member Jan Husák.

Direct criticism of the Regional Authorities and the attitudes of some Regional Governors towards addressing the crisis concerning the housing of Romani refugees from Ukraine was also voiced. "In my region, as a citizen, I have been doing my best with my own opportunities and resources to provide aid from the very beginning of this entire problem. In addition to humanitarian assistance, we are also attempting to meet with the Regional Assistance Center for Aid to Ukraine (KACPU) about appropriate accommodation. Negotiations have also happened at Brno City Hall," civil society member Tomáš Ščuka said.    

"However, the role played by the state is crucial. It is not possible that a group that is one of the most vulnerable - children and their mothers - is living for what is already a second month outdoors or in railway stations. It is apparent that the approach being taken toward this group is different. There was not enough room for discussion during the council session. In a situation of this urgency, it is necessary to communicate and work at intervals that are more regular," Ščuka said. 

The council adopted a resolution during the session that entrusts the new Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, Klára Laurenčíková, with leading a working group to address the current situation. The agenda of a previous working group featuring representatives of nonprofit organizations, the Refugee Facilities Administration, the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, and the Office of the Public Defender of Rights was also transferred to the new working group.    

Deputy Public Defender of Rights Šimůnková: Unequal treatment of refugees of Romani origin has been happening

Deputy Public Defender of Rights Monika Šimůnková presented the findings of her investigation into the Regional Assistance Centers aiding refugees. She said that Romani refugees have been subjected to unequal treatment.

"The unequal approach taken toward Romani refugees from Ukraine at the KACPUs is a problem that shows that in the Czech Republic, solidarity with refugees does not apply across the board - in relation to Romani people, rather the opposite," said civil society member Štefan Oláh. "It is not possible to tolerate this and we will continue to collaborate with the Office of the Public Defender of Rights on this."   

Former centers for detention are inappropriate for children and their mothers

"During the council meeting a resolution was adopted recommending the Government arrange enough housing for all asylum-seekers," said civil society member Alena Gronzíková. "It is quite important that we get information that is transparent about the numbers of Romani refugees and about accommodation capacities, mainly in the regions, because Prague and other big cities are already congested."   

There was agreement across the council above all on the fact that residing in former detention facilities such as Bělá or Vyšní Lhoty is absolutely inappropriate for children and their mothers. "It is better than being on the street, as it were, but it is essential to make sure there will not be a bigger crisis after the Regional Assistance Centers close at the end of May. Without accommodation, there is the danger that children and their mothers will have no prospects, which creates other risks for them," civil society member Gronzíková said.    

Zdeněk Guži, the vice-chair of the council for its civil society section, added:  "We appreciate the extraordinary deployment of the nonprofit sector, which from the beginning of the crisis has actively addressed the needs of these people afflicted by the war. We also assess the leadership of the Refugee Facilities Administration positively, as they have approached this situation quite proactively. The appointment of Klára Laurenčíková as commissioner is quite a good signal."  

Prime Minister Fiala is counting on establishing the position of a Czech Government Commissioner for Romani Affairs

"Given the gravity of the subject, we primarily concentrated on the refugee situation during the meeting," Ščuka said. "We are glad, though, that assurances were voiced by Prime Minister Petr Fiala that he is counting on establishing the position of a Commissioner for Roma. At the same time, we discussed other still-relevant subjects, such as the Framework Education Program undergoing revision at the Education Ministry right now. It is absolutely essential that the new program also include information about the culture of the Roma and about the Roma themselves, and also that educational experts who are themselves Romani collaborate on the revision."  

"The final point discussed was information about the results of the investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš," Ščuka added. "On the basis of the findings of the investigation conducted by the Deputy Public Defender of Rights, the intervening police officers made an error by calling the emergency medical services with about a three-minute delay. We thank Monika Šimůnková for her initiative. The Stanislav Tomáš case has attracted enormous attention from human rights organizations at the international level."  

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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