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Czech agency to solve ghetto problem to start work in summer

Prague, 6.2.2007 13:42, (CTK)

An agency whose task will be to prevent the appearance of new ghettos for the poor and contribute to the elimination of the existing ones will start working in the middle of this year, Czech Minister in charge of ethnic minorities and human rights Dzamila Stehlikova (Green Party) told journalists today.

In the first two years it will concentrate on the improvement of the situation in six selected areas across the country, she said.

According to an analysis, there are more than 300 houses and neighbourhoods for the poor that are mainly occupied by Romanies. The estimated number of people living there is 80,000. Most adults there are jobless and most families are dependent on social security benefits. The children of these families are sent to special schools for children with learning difficulties.

"The agency has actually been established," Stehlikova said today, adding that people at the Government Office were preparing the agency for the start.

However, guarantor of the agency Czeslaw Walek said that no new special office was being established. The agency is to start functioning as of July 1 as an independent office that will be based on the government's office for Romany issues, Walek said, adding that it was to employ two dozen people at the most.

The agency will coordinate the integration of socially-excluded people back in society, Stehlikova said.

It will organise meetings with representatives of the local governments, non-profit organisations and companies in the areas with ghettoes for the poor and will try help them find a solution to the improvement of the situation, she said.

According to Walek, it will be necessary to convince local experts, politicians and the public of the need of special measures. The agency is also to teach the organisations in regions how to acquire money for the integration projects from European funds.

"The Agency would professionally ensure the process of the drawing of the money for selected projects, help launch them and monitor them," Stehlikova said.

Stehlikova said that she intended to obtain most of the money necessary to fund the new agency activities from the European Social Fund (ESF) and a small part of the money would come from the state budget.

The preparatory team is preparing a detailed project that describes the work of the agency and the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry wants to ask the ESF and the state for the money by the end of March, Walek said.

The agency could obtain some 30 million crowns for the next two years.

"The amount of money will depend on the number of the localities on which we will focus. If there are only three a smaller amount will be sufficient. If there are six it will require more money," Walek.

By mid-2009 the agency will study the situation in selected localities to see whether its efforts would bring the improvement of the situation. If there is an improvement the agency's activity could expand, Walek said.

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