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July 6, 2022



Czech capital to see demonstration in support of Romani refugees from Ukraine calling for dignified conditions

17.5.2022 15:49
Romani refugees from Ukraine at the Main Train Station in Prague, Czech Republic, May 2022. (PHOTO:  Lukáš Cirok)
Romani refugees from Ukraine at the Main Train Station in Prague, Czech Republic, May 2022. (PHOTO: Lukáš Cirok)

On Thursday, 19 May at 18:00 a demonstration called "Welcome Refugees: Dignified Conditions for Everybody Arriving from Ukraine" will be held in front of the Interior Ministry in Prague, Czech Republic. Organized by Collective 115 and the Christian Ecumenical Feminist Group RFK, those attending will express their disagreement with the Czech state not providing basic security to all who are fleeing Russia's war on Ukraine.

The organizers announced the demonstration on Facebook. "The Czechs have responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Government has repeatedly committed itself to aiding Ukrainians fleeing the war. Lex Ukraine and the temporary protection mechanism have indeed lawfully provided refugees the opportunity to claim support that is unprecedented, but it soon turned out that not everybody is able to access it. During the month of April, the number of cases began to accumulate regarding Romani families from Ukraine, usually, whose applications for temporary protection, for different reasons, have not been facilitated. These people have been stranded in the streets with zero support, without options for emergency housing or any humanitarian aid or social assistance," the organizers posted to social media.      

"Refugees whose status is being vetted are in the same situation. Checking dual citizenship can last as long as 10 days, during which these people remain totally without support. This vetting is being done all but exclusively for refugees of Romani origin," the organizers have posted, adding that the main train station in Prague has become a symbol of this statewide problem of insufficient housing capacities, the lack of systematic support, and the transfer of responsibility to the nonprofit sector and volunteers who are replacing the functions the state should be performing.   

"These images of hundreds of people sleeping on the floor of the main train station, without access to an adequate diet, in conditions that are dangerous and undignified, are reminiscent of the Budapest Keléti railway station crisis in 2015. Does the Czech Government actually want to go down this path?" the organizers ask rhetorically, demanding that appropriate, sufficient capacities be immediately provided in the interim as support for refugees whose status is being vetted.

The demonstration organizers say they also want the authorities to change intake procedures so that nobody is deprived of the legal opportunity to apply for temporary protection status. As far as the main railway station in Prague is concerned, they are demanding an increase in the number of portions of emergency beverages and meals provided there and an increase in their nutritional value, including a range of options appropriate for children's diets, as well as support for activities with these children to be organized by volunteers and the provision of sufficient capacities of temporary accommodation outside of the main train station grounds, without resorting to detention center facilities and without segregating refugee housing on the basis of ethnicity.

In recent weeks, Prague has been struggling with a big influx of refugees from Ukraine and an apparent lack of housing for them. The assistance center in the Vysočany quarter, which is serving the entire Central Bohemian Region and the metropolis, has handled about 88 000 refugees from Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion at the close of February this year. 

Last week mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) called for the creation of a nationwide mechanism for the redistribution of the refugees from the war into different regions of the Czech Republic. According to the mayor, there are now four times more refugees from Ukraine per 1 000 inhabitants in Prague than any other region.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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