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September 29, 2022



Czech civil society criticizes Brno City Hall for its treatment of refugees from Ukraine: "You're treating the Romani children and their mothers worse than dogs"

7.6.2022 15:49
Romani children and their mothers fleeing Russia's aggression against Ukraine in Brno, Czech Republic. (2022) (PHOTO: Facebook page of the Native and Indigenous Film Festival)
Romani children and their mothers fleeing Russia's aggression against Ukraine in Brno, Czech Republic. (2022) (PHOTO: Facebook page of the Native and Indigenous Film Festival)

Brno City Hall is being subjected to overwhelming criticism for its approach toward the children and their mothers who are refugees of Romani origin from Ukraine whom the city has relocated to a fenced-off plot of land between Benešova Street and Koliště Street. "Arrogance", "for shame", "treating them worse than dogs" are the words being used to describe the city's policy by a longterm social worker and a nonprofit organization.

According to the daily newspaper Deník N, most of these mothers of Romani origin have been granted temporary protection visas by the Czech authorities and come from Berehov, Lviv, Mukachevo and Uzhhorod in Ukraine. “We arrived about two months ago," a 40-year-old refugee named Maria told the daily. 

"We registered in the refugee center at the Exhibition Grounds, where we slept for several nights. Then they loaded us on a bus and took us to Vyšní Lhoty and said we should live there,” she said.

Maria came to the Czech Republic from Ukraine with her daughter and her three grandchildren. The Czech authorities are refusing to help them anymore because the mothers refused to live with their children behind the barbed wire of the former detention camp at Vyšní Lhoty.

"It's in the middle of the forest, there's barbed wire, armed security, you can't cook for yourself there. When the children saw it, they started crying. We couldn't stay there," Maria said.

The Brno Town Hall is being criticized for its behavior toward such refugees by a nonprofit organization and a longterm social worker. "The situation in the Brno refugee camp next to the main railway station is absolutely depressing and shameful," says the Czech-language Facebook page for the Native and Indigenous Film Festival (NAIFF), adding that inside the military-grade tents, temperatures almost reached 50 degrees Celsius recently under the direct sun.

"It is almost impossible to tolerate being in the tents. If it starts to rain in the afternoon, there is no flooring, everything will be underwater. Rain will leak into the tents. There is no food, no medical assistance for the children and sick people! Nobody but volunteers is providing the refugees with any information! There are newborns, nursing mothers, pregnant women there. The situation in this so-called camp is life-threatening!" reads the message on the NAIFF Facebook page, which is attempting to coordinate the aid provided by volunteers.  

The aid effort includes for example, Brno Team, a group of Romani people which has been assisting the Romani refugees since the beginning of this crisis, and representatives of the IQ Roma servis organization are also helping on the scene. The NAIFF post closes by calling the situation the "Total failure of institutions and the total shame of the City of Brno, the future European Capital of Culture!" 

"This is the incredible arrogance of the attitude held towards these human beings by Brno City Hall, which assumes that all the NGOs and volunteers will do everything necessary just with their own resources. Building tents without any flooring that will leak when it rains!" criticized Alena Gronzíková, a longtime social worker from IQ Roma servis.

"I bet that if dogs needed aid, those responsible here would be tearing off their own arms to make sure those dogs lacked for nothing, including little doggie beds and food. You should be struck down with shame, at the very least because of these innocent children who, thank God, are being provided with the most necessary things by ordinary people," Gronzíková said.  

Last Friday afternoon firefighters installed three large-capacity tents on the land at Koliště Street, including portable toilets and drinking water tanks. The city claims field workers go to the refugees daily and that they do have access to food and health care.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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