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Czech city to raze apartment buildings where local council briefly fenced off Romani residents from view after their non-Romani neighbors complained

20.6.2022 7:50
The ceramic barrier on Matiční Street in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic being protested in 1999 by Romani people whose signs read
The ceramic barrier on Matiční Street in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic being protested in 1999 by Romani people whose signs read "Do you think you are superior? We've seen this before here and we know how it ended!", "1989-1999 has been hell for Roma", "Give our children a chance", "Matiční is a symbol of racism and intolerance". (PHOTO: TV NOVA)

The city of Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic has handed over two apartment buildings on Matiční Street that are slated for demolition to the construction firm contracted for the work. The demolition should be completed 10 weeks after the handover and the decision as to what will replace the buildings will be made at some point in the future. 

The locality also includes a third apartment building owned by the Czech Ports. Its eventual demolition is still being negotiated.

Deputy Mayor Pavel Tošovský (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) informed the Czech News Agency of the events on 13 June. The last renters moved out of the buildings slated for demolition, which were in very poor repair, in 2011.  

"We are planning a meeting with Czech Ports as soon as possible. By making this move we want to demonstrate to them that we are serious," the Deputy Mayor said.

"Currently the buildings have been abandoned and unoccupied for several years and in terms of their construction, their stability is technically unsatisfactory," Tošovský told the Czech News Agency. The demolition will cost the city roughly CZK 3 million [EUR 121,000].  

In future a park or other recreational space could be developed at that location. The Deputy Mayor said a lawn will be planted there in the interim.

In 1994, Romani residents who owed back rent to the city as tenants of the surrounding high-rise apartment buildings were relocated to the Matiční Street units. Longtime residents there complained that coexistence with them did not work and demanded a wall be built to block them from view.  

The Municipal Department of Neštěmice decided to build the barrier and one year later erected a fence on Matiční Street separating the municipally-owned buildings inhabited by Romani people from the longterm residents of the neighborhood. A wave of protest against the move immediately arose from human rights defenders and Romani organizations, and the Czech Republic was even criticized by the European Union. 

The ceramic fence was 1.8 meters high and remained in place from 13 October to 24 November 1999. The local council had it removed after the state promised CZK 10 million [EUR 404,000] to resolve the situation. 

Some of that money was used by the local council to buy out the three single-family homes of the longterm residents who had complained, while the rest of the money was used to make adjustments to the environs or for projects of a social nature. The barrier was dismantled and became part of the fencing at the local Zoo; a section of it is also in the local museum. 

The Municipal Department of Neštěmice was administering the apartment buildings at issue after the city gave them the properties. The current Mayor of Neštěmice, Yveta Tomková (Vaše Ústí - Your Ústí), agreed to the demolition on the condition that the land no longer be used for housing and that the space should instead serve to develop the locality. 

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Housing, Matiční, Racism, segregation



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