Czech bus drivers for refugees from Ukraine refuse to rescue Romani refugee mothers and children stuck on the Slovak border
It seems we in the Czech Republic might rightly be proud of the unprecedented rise of solidarity with the invaded country of Ukraine and the extensive assistance to refugees being offered by the Czech Government, companies, non-profit organizations and especially by the masses of ordinary people, many of whom were certainly previously terrified of war refugees from countries that are culturally and geographically more distant - but before we start getting too impressed with ourselves, we also need to admit the bad, distasteful things accompanying this current outpouring of aid which, even in this context, reveal the dark but well-known corners of our social conscience. One such thing happened on the afternoon of Saturday, 5 March, when a small NGO called Amaria, z.s. chartered a bus to one of the Slovak-Ukrainian border crossings.
The journey was paid for by the Central Bohemian Regional Authority of the Czech Republic. The bus drivers, during the entire journey, pretended to be volunteers when speaking with the Amaria, z.s. members.
The bus was delivering materials needed in different locations near the border where refugees have been waiting not just for hours, but even for days to be removed or transitioned to safety, and the plan was to bring refugees with children back to the Czech Republic. On the way there, the bus drivers began to think out loud about the "real" refugees who deserve help and those who are "just trying to take advantage" of the situation and improve their economic lot by migrating to a country that is richer.
Once we were on the scene, it was quickly (and, I admit, quite unsurprisingly) revealed to us where the line betwen "deserving" and "undeserving" was drawn in the drivers' minds - these people who, in their own words, "like to help where it is needed". Although the bus was still empty, the drivers - despite the protests and the weeping of the association members and organizers of the trip - absolutely decidedly refused to go to a village 10 km away to pick up a dozen mothers with children who had been freezing on the benches of an evangelical church for several days, a refuge that was absolutely, in health terms, unsatisfactory, and temporary, and from which the pastor had not managed to secure any transport further into the interior for all refugees for some time.
Instead, the bus financed by the Central Bohemian Region waited two hours at the border crossing until it was absolutely full. Yes, those children and women who were not rescued from the church were Romani refugees from the environs of Kyiv.
Who knows how much humiliation and how much pneumonia they will end up with just because those Czech bus drivers, those brilliant representatives of our helping nation, classified them as "inadaptable" without even seeing them. Those bus drivers didn't want to get their seats "dirty" supporting "economic migration".
As many of you have been aptly and repeatedly remarking, antigypsyism - our entirely domestic, homemade, longstanding, socially-tolerated racism - is the touchstone of our Czech solidarity even in these terrible times. Unfortunately, as long as we discriminate against war refugees on the basis of their appearance and economic situations without the slightest shame and without experiencing general condemnation (and field reports of similar cases increase every day), I am unable to take full inspiration from my own nation with pride.
- Czech accommodation facilities discriminatorily, groundlessly expel Romani refugees from Ukraine
- Roma in the Czech Republic and Slovakia join aid efforts for victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine
- Czech foundation launches collection to aid Romani children, communities and families in Ukraine
- Czech Republic: RomanoNet condemns barbaric attack by Russia on Ukraine, expresses support to Roma and all inhabitants of Ukraine in their fight for freedom and independence
- Czech Interior Minister: Romani refugees from Ukraine are not a threat, they are the worst-afflicted by this crisis, we can atone for the hardship we have caused them
- Number of homeless Romani refugees from Ukraine sleeping at main train station in the Czech capital seems to be decreasing for now
- Czech Govt website provides overview of aid available to counter inflation, uptake has been slow
- Czech Police and Romani nonprofits have begun informing homeless Romani refugees from Ukraine at Prague's main train station of their options
- 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 NGO director: Government never consulted changes to support for refugees from Ukraine with our organization
- 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