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October 19, 2021



Czech city says evictees who "really" want aid will get it, the rest are "aggressive" and "under the influence of activists"

16.6.2018 15:15
Demonstration against impoverished Romani tenants being evicted, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, 14 June 2018. The sign reads
Demonstration against impoverished Romani tenants being evicted, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, 14 June 2018. The sign reads "DON'T PUNISH THE NEEDY, DEAL WITH THOSE WHO CASH IN ON THEM, A GHETTO IS NO SOLUTION" (PHOTO: Jan Mihaliček,

According to representatives of the City of Ústí nad Labem, the evictees from two residential hotels there that will close as of 30 June are under the influence of activists and the unrealistic idea that somebody besides they themselves will take care of arranging their relocations. On 13 June, the city issued a press release entitled "Aid will come to those who actually want it."

City leadership is apparently responding to the calls made to them by several nonprofit organizations, who asked the responsible authorities to do something about the situation all last week. According to the city's press release, the situation at the closing residential hotels was discussed by the participants in a coordination meeting between representatives of the city, social workers employed by City Hall and the various Municipal Departments, and nonprofit organizations active locally.

The negotiations were led by Vice-Mayor Jiří Madar, who said the city, in collaboration with others, will be doing its best to aid those who want assistance. "The city has available to it the statistics on the number of persons in the residential hotels and the numbers from the visits made by social workers to each apartment unit confirm that intensive social work is underway at both facilities. The situation is being complicated by some activists who are making promises nobody can keep to the tenants," the press release reads.

According to Madar, the residential hotel evictees should believe the social workers and not the "irresponsible loudmouths" who are also advising them. "The city itself does not own any apartments and is not able to make any available. Those municipal apartment units that can be applied for - for which there are waiting lists - are administered by the Municipal Departments. The basic precondition for being awarded such an apartment is that the applicant owe no debts to the municipality, a condition that these applicants do not meet. Those debts cannot be forgiven because we are obliged to administer city finances with the care of a proper fiduciary. However, nobody will have to live on the street. That has not happened, not during the floods, or after fires, or in cases of collapsed buildings, or in the case of the residential hotels that were previously closed. Our aim is for as many people as possible to be rehoused in the weeks to come," Madar said.

City says evictees are "aggressive", some social workers say otherwise

"Social workers, during their work at the residential hotels, are getting into difficult situations. The people accommodated there are living under the influence of activists in the unrealistic belief that somebody else will take care of arranging housing for them. They are insulting the social workers, assaulting them, and cursing at them," the press release reads.

The city leadership is reminding the public of the conflict that arose between two social workers with the People in Need organization and the evictees after the social workers proposed to one evictee that she place two of her five children with a foster care program so it would be easier for her to find a rental. Social workers from the Kleja and Romano Jasnica nonprofit organizations, however, have rejected the characterization of the residential hotel inhabitants as aggressive.

"Today there was a social worker from the Kleja organization there. It's no problem to speak with the people and offer them aid. It's absolutely not a situation of conflict. There is an enormous amount of hopelessness predominating, many children and their mothers are crying, people are desperate. However, nobody is assaulting anybody, it's an absolutely safe environment there," Petra Szaffnerová Bímonová, a social worker with Romano Jasnica, told news server

Nonprofit organizations call on city to meet with evictees, as decisions "about them without them" are unacceptable has previously reported that roughly 230 people will have to relocate from the two closed facilities, at least 80 of whom are children. Activists, individuals including some quite famous figures, and nonprofit organizations decided to call on the city to actively solve the crisis situation as well.

On 5 June an open letter was sent to the City Council asking the city to give its auspices to the residential hotels in danger of eviction. The letter was sent specifically to current Mayor Věřa Nechybová and to other city assembly and city council members.

"We are asking and calling on you, as the leadership of the city, to take a responsible approach to the situation of the adults, the families with children, the senior citizens and the single mothers living at the residential hotels being closed at Klíšská 53 and Purkyňova 14. We ask that you invite the inhabitants to negotiate with you about this, not that you meet about them without them, as they do not have enough information about their own situations. We are asking that you give your auspices to both residential hotels until such time as a different administrator is found for them after Ms Lee Anderlová closes her business. Please begin negotiations with the CPI Byty company as soon as possible and reach an agreement about a temporary crisis solution for the inhabitants of these residential hotels," the open letter read.

Solidarity with the children and their families who are being relocated was expressed by the Brussels-based European Roma Grassroots Organization network (ERGO), which also expressed the concern that solutions would be designed about the evictees without them. In a letter to the chair of the social and health commission of the city, Lenka Jaremovová, director of ERGO Gabriela Hrabaňová wrote:  "For us, as representatives of a Europe-wide network of local organizations run by and for Romani people, it is very important to alert you to the fact that an approach to this solution is called for that will take into account the requirements of this target group, i.e., the tenants of the accommodation facilities mentioned above. It is very important not to favor solutions that are not designed together with the people whose lives will be influenced by your decisions. We are hereby asking that you establish a dialogue with the residential hotel tenants."

Amnesty International Czech Republic is also warning against the danger of an impending crisis. The organization is urging the city to collaborate on finding a substitute housing solution for those affected by the evictions and that the city guarantee that none of the evictees end up homeless on the streets as a consequence of their relocation.

"The authorities must aid the families affected by this relocation. Social services advice is one matter, but the actual impact of this relocation on the lives of the children and their families is another. In practice, these people encounter rejection when seeking housing because of their Romani origin. It is currently extremely important that the authorities be aware of this risk and act constructively," said the director of Amnesty's Czech branch, Mark Martin.

The organizations Counseling Center for Citizenship/Civil and Human Rights (Poradna pro občanství/Občanská a lidská práva) and People in Need have published their own joint call concerning the matter to their websites. "People in Need, o.p.s. and Counseling Center for Citizenship/Civil and Human Rights, z.s., call on the Ústí nad Labem City Hall to position themselves responsibly when it comes to solving the crisis situation of the people who are currently living at the residential hotels slated for closure on Klíšská and Purkynova Streets. Their situations are hopeless, and a responsible intervention by the city is essential. The situation is critical, there is actually a danger that entire families will end up living on the street after the facilities close," the organizations' statement reads.

The inhabitants of the facilities held a demonstration about their untenable situation on 14 June and will hold another next Wednesday. "Come join us, you could be next" the organizers' posters advertising the demonstration read.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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