Czech activist: Refuting the half-truths, rumors and untruths spreading about the Romani mothers and children fleeing Russia's war on Ukraine
In recent weeks, we at the Konexe organization have encountered many half-truths, hoaxes and untruths that are spreading about refugees from Russia's war on Ukraine - to be precise, about Romani children and their mothers seeking a safe haven from the war. These half-truths, rumors and untruths are being spread by official representatives of the Czech Republic, such as the President, the Interior Minister, and some governors and local politicians, and we would like to set the record straight on at least some of them.
Half-truth #1: The Romani refugees Ukraine are actually economic migrants from Hungary
Some of the refugees from Ukraine's western regions do have dual citizenship, Hungarian and Ukrainian. Years ago, Orbán's regime sent recruiters to the neighboring countries where Hungary has made territorial demands (i.e., "Great Hungary"), to seek allegedly "lost" members of the ethnic Hungarian minority in those territories.
Whoever was persuaded to sign a paper stating that he or she feels himself or herself to be Hungarian was immediately given Hungarian citizenship. The recruiters managed to persuade some Roma to sign.
Of these "citizens of Hungary" who are Romani, the vast majority have no ties to Hungary, may never have even been to Hungary, and this citizenship is a formality, purely. Aid or protection for them in Hungary is highly unlikely under Orbán.
In the Czech Republic, we at Konexe believe (although we cannot prove it yet) that it is just dark-skinned refugees who are being vetted for dual citizenship. As far as we are aware, background checks are not being conducted on Ukrainians who are "white" - nobody here is curious to check up on whether they, too, have dual citizenship.
Half-truth #2: Dual Hungarian/Ukrainian citizens are not entitled to aid and protection
In the other countries to which such refugees are heading, the process involves verifying that the person did actually live in Ukraine before the war, did have his or her permanent residence there, and is actually on the run from the war. If so, these countries will aid these refugees and their dual citizenship is a formality that is not an obstacle.
Half-truth #3: Romani refugees from Ukraine arrive in big groups - so large that they cannot be accommodated in housing of standard size
Such groups do actually appear here, but not frequently. Usually, if there is a bigger group of Romani people, it means just a few families are traveling together, and it is easy for the group to split up into those families to be accommodated in apartment units that are common to them.
Just walk along the halls of the Prague railway station, where hundreds of Romani refugee children and their mothers from Ukraine have been stuck - big groups here are rarely seen, on the contrary, we meet many mothers with anywhere between one and four children each, or just Romani women on their own. This deliberately-distributed rumor about giant groups that are indivisible serves as an excuse for the authorities to not even attempt to find housing that is standard to offer Romani refugees from Ukraine.
Half-truth #4: Romani refugees reject the accommodation that has been allocated to them by the state
In our experience, this "accommodation" is in centers for detainees, that is what is especially being offered to Romani refugees from Ukraine. These facilities are like prisons - barbed wire, bars on the windows, high fences, located in places that are remote.
Actually, it is these facilities that are so like prisons which are the ones the Romani refugees are rejecting. They do not want to live in them because for children they are completely unsuitable, and from a human perspective it is quite understandable that they would not want such "accommodation" in such environments.
Half-truth #5: Romani refugees come to the Czech Republic from a part of Ukraine where the war is not being waged
Bombardment and sniper fire is currently happening in all regions of Ukraine, including the west. The Romani refugees whom we have aided are from all over Ukraine - Donbas, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Odesa, the western regions and Zaporizhzhia.
Some of the Romani refugees whom we have aided fled from the front line, literally. It is as if we in the Czech Republic do not realize the partners and spouses of these Romani refugees are fighting the Russian aggression in Ukraine with weapons in their hands to save Europe, not just Ukraine itself.
Is the antigypsyism in the Czech Republic, as well as the institutional racism that is systemic, so strong that we are unable to aid the Romani refugees from Russia's war on Ukraine the same way we have assisted those whose skin is white? Apparently so, all evidence so far suggests that is the case.
- Czech capital to see temporary accommodation for Romani refugees from Ukraine in the Troja neighborhood so they need not sleep in the train station
- Czech Interior Minister: Temporary shelter will be built so refugees do not have sleep in the hallways of the main train station in Prague
- Mayor of Prague says if the Czech state does not systematize the distribution of refugees it will close its aid center, tent city supposedly being built
- Czech far-right MP gives distasteful xenophobic speech in lower house, attacks Romani refugees with the Nazi term "inadaptables" - ministers left to shut down the session
- Commentary: Arrogant behavior of Czech Railways staff toward Romani refugees from Ukraine and absurd police proposals
- Romani nonprofits and civil society members of the Czech Govt Council on Roma Minority Affairs call on PM to hold a crisis meeting with them about aid to Romani Ukrainian refugees
- Czech Interior Minister wants stricter checks on the passports held by refugees and changes to the aid offered them
- Czech activist aiding Romani refugee Ukrainians on their way to Germany says Czech passengers targeted them with racist, vulgar abuse
- Czech civic initiative calls for aid and demands systemic solution after assistance to Romani refugees from Ukraine collapses altogether
- Renata Berkyová at Lety u Písku: How is the current Romani society living in the Czech Republic to comprehend the open racism toward Romani refugees from Ukraine?
- President of Czech Senate says Lety commemorations are a call for people to treat minorities fairly
- Number of homeless Romani refugees from Ukraine sleeping at main train station in the Czech capital seems to be decreasing for now
- Romani NGO offers Czech Interior Ministry list of places where different kinds of housing could be built for homeless Romani refugees from Ukraine
- Czech capital's "tent city" for refugees from Ukraine has seen 250 people pass through it so far
- Czech Govt Council on Roma Community Affairs establishes new team to resolve Romani refugee situation, to be led by Human Rights Commissioner
- Czech Government proposes stricter rules for temporary protection for refugees from Ukraine
- Aid to refugees from Ukraine will no longer be offered at Czech capital's main train station by close of this month, about 500 Romani refugees continue to sleep there
- Czech NGO aiding refugees says if Government doesn't begin resolving the Prague train station situation, they will stop providing legal assistance there
- Czech Interior Minister met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Ukrainian Police to investigate allegedly "organized dispatches" of Roma refugees from Ukraine
- Prague's tent city almost full with 142 Romani refugees from Ukraine there, others head to Germany after bad experiences in the Czech Republic
- Czech Health Minister: Room for Romani refugees from Ukraine has to be found outside of Prague
- Czech Caritas branch objects to Romani political party's critique of aid to Romani refugees from Ukraine, party stands by its allegations
- Jarmila Balážová: Condemnation of refugee Romani children and their mothers from Ukraine is unfair when their brothers, fathers and sons are fighting back at home!