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Civil society members of the Czech Govt Roma Council seek meeting with Czech Interior Minister and PM over recent interethnic violence

16.4.2019 12:47
A session of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs. (PHOTO:  Office of the Government of the Czech Republic)
A session of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs. (PHOTO: Office of the Government of the Czech Republic)

Civil society members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs (Rada vlády pro záležitosti romské menšiny - RVZRM) have called on the Czech Interior Minister and the Czech Prime Minister to meet with them in association with the violent incidents that have recently happened between ethnic Czechs and Romani people in the towns of Dvorec (Bruntál district) and Lipník nad Bečvou. "We are convinced that the situation deserves the particular attention of the leading representatives of the Government of the Czech Republic, and for that reason we have called on Interior Minister Jan Hamáček and Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who chairs the RVZRM, to meet with us," RVZRM Vice-Chair Martina Horváthová said in a statement sent to news server Romea.cz.

According to a declaration made by the civil society members of the RVZRM at their most recent meeting on 21 February 2019, they warned Babiš then of the danger posed by the society-wide problem of antigypsyism. "We consider this to be the basic problem," the Vice-Chair said.

"The last two serious incidents are evidence of the conditions prevailing in our society," the Vice-Chair said. "Mutual relations between [ethnic] Czechs and Roma are defined by frustration, and their escalation in public spaces is an everyday occurrence."

"We are witnessing daily verbal assaults on social media calling for violence. Such actions, even if they always take place in a local context, contribute to deteriorating the conditions of coexistence for both sides," the Vice-Chair said.

"At the same time, the ministries are not responsibly fulfilling their obligations associated with the integration policy for Romani people, a consequence of which is the constant deterioration of the living conditions of a certain part of the Romani minority, which results in problems that smaller municipalities frequently are unable to effectively address and therefore are not doing so," the Vice-Chair said. The civil society members' call for a meeting is in response to two incidents that happened recently in Dvorec (Bruntál district) and Lipník nad Bečvou.

In Dvorec, on 4 April, a conflict happened between a Romani family who had recently moved into the community and another local (non-Romani) resident in which the Romani people are said to have physically assaulted the non-Romani man, who ended up injured in hospital. According to one version of the events, the incident was caused by the non-Romani man allegedly racially abusing children from the Romani family and throwing rocks at them as they were seated in a car.

Subsequently, a local protest was organized against the Romani family - which was also attended by local Romani residents of long standing - and the family has been forced to relocate for their own safety despite police protection. Two days later, on Sunday, 7 April, a non-Romani man and woman physically attacked a group of Romani children in Lipník nad Bečvou.

Several Romani children remained hospitalized after that violent assault. According to the statement by the civil society members of the RVZRM, the Olomouc Regional Coordinator for National Minorities and Romani Affairs, Renáta Köttnerová, who is also a member of the RVZRM, initiated a meeting between the vice-mayor of Lipník nad Bečvou, representatives of the police, Romani people in touch with the assaulted children, and local nonprofit organizations.

"Fast cooperation among all those attending that meeting aided with requalifying that incident from the category of a misdemeanor to that of a felony, which managed to forestall further criticism by the Romani community of the authorities' response. The Romani families of the children who were attacked do not want any demonstrations or marches held in response to the incident, as they anticipate that the case will be properly investigated by police," the statement reads.

"[The Romani families] believe the relevant state bodies will function fairly," reads the statement. The RVZRM civil society members are designing a draft plan for how to address such crises so as to prevent a growth in tensions over such incidents.

redakce, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Andrej Babiš, antigypsyism, Rada vlády pro záležitosti romské menšiny, Violence



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