Czech Government report finds evictions of Roma from Vsetín costly and counterproductive
Four and a half years after the eviction of 70 socially deprived Roma people from the town of Vsetín to villages in the Jesenik and Prostějov districts of the Czech Republic, the approach is proven to have had catastrophic repercussion for the evicted families and to have cost the municipality and the state a great deal of money. The social situation of all of the evicted families deteriorated and they all currently face collections proceedings and eviction once more. The approach encumbered the small villages to which the families were moved and required costly interventions by many actors, such as nonprofits, the ombudsman, and regional administrations. These are the results of a research into the impact of the eviction on some of the families commissioned by the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities.
"This extensive report describes in detail how the solution chosen by the Vsetín town hall, led at the time by Mayor Jiří Čunek, unleashed a chain of events which had many negative repercussions. These include the impacts on the families themselves, on nonprofit organizations, on regional administrations, and on small villages. The option of addressing the problem in place, instead of shifting it elsewhere, would have have been much more efficient," says Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková.
"We sent the report to the leadership of all the municipalities mentioned in it, including the town of Vsetín, as well as to the leadership of Olomouc and Zlín regions. We will use this as a specific example of the high cost and inappropriateness of addressing the problem of social exclusion through evictions," explains Martin Šimáček, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities. The study was conducted starting in October 2010 and completed in mid-January 2011.
At the time the Vsetín town hall argued that its chosen solution was financially expedient. The report unequivocally shows that on the contrary, the evictions involved a considerable number of additional expenditures which significantly exceeded what would have been the cost of addressing the families' situations through on-site social work.
"The costs were deferred and transferred to other institutions - municipalities, regions, and the state. However, even Vsetín itself was eventually forced to gradually cover some of these increased costs," Šimáček says in summary.
The costs of acquiring the properties into which six families were moved totaled roughly CZK 2.5 million. The town also had to cover the costs of transporting the people to the selected villages. They were transported at night without prior warning.
The majority of the properties were in very poor condition from an architectural and technical standpoint. One building had even been condemned already. The essential repairs to the structures significantly burdened the household budgets of the already indebted, poor families forced into the properties.
"The families were not prepared to own their own housing, their financial situations were completely inadequate for the purchase of real estate in a a poor architectural and technical state. Mayor Čunek's argument about 'getting the families on their own feet' is proven absurd," Šimáček said. Moreover, three of the families were immediately subjected to collections after being moved into the real estate in connection with the debts they had incurred at their original residency in Vsetín.
The Olomouc Region incurred significant costs, as did the villages that had to address the crisis situation of these families. Renata Köttnerová, the Olomouc Regional Coordinator of Roma Advisers, coordinated the activity of nonprofits, the regions and the villages with these families. Exceptional efforts were made on their behalf over the course of several years. In the small villages this significantly encumbered the mayors, who had no staff at their offices dedicate to social work. Nonprofit organizations started requesting subsidies to ensure social services which had never before operated in those villages.
The sharp deterioration in their economic and housing situations placed these families at risk of having their children placed in institutional care. In the case of five children, that is what eventually happened. "The costs to the state of that institutionalization eventually exceeded one million Czech crowns annually," Šimáček calculates.
The families' poor economic and social situations also continued to deteriorate because they now had to travel considerable distances into Vsetín to deal with the authorities. Another important factor was the loss of social contacts and ties with extended family and friends. The families have found it difficult to establish new social relationships and continue to be perceived in the villages as "the ones from Vsetín". "In some villages the residents openly expressed loathing for the families who had been moved in. In such a situation, co-existence is almost impossible," Šimáček says.
The families were evicted on Friday, 13 October 2006. Roughly 70 persons were driven by bus and truck without their consent at night to the villages of Vidnava, Vlčice and Stará Červená Voda in the Jesenik district. Several days later, two families were evicted and taken to the villages of Dřevnovice and Čechy pod Kosířem in the Prostějov district. One family was also evicted and moved to the village of Mistřice in the Uherské Hradiště district.
The evictions were related to the destruction of building no 1336 in Vsetín. Some of the residents were moved into so-called "container" buildings in the Poschla area on the outskirts of town.
In 2007, then-Czech ombudsman Otakar Motejl found that the Vsetín town hall had wrongfully committed the evictions. He called the decision to evict the families "ineffective and poorly conceived."
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