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Czech Govt Agency for Social Inclusion: Response to crisis in Šluknov district was not coordinated

Prague, 27.8.2012 20:00, (ROMEA)
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The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion has produced an evaluation report for the Government which finds that local authorities, ministries, and police did not address last year's unrest in the Šluknov district with the necessary coordination. Those institutions were not prepared for the unexpected crisis and did not have enough "extra capacity". Some ministries never responded to the situation at all. The document should be discussed by the cabinet at its Wednesday session.

The situation in Šluknov district had long been tense and became acute last year at the start of summer. Several incidents between ethnic Czechs and Romani people contributed to the crisis. Anti-Romani demonstrations and protest marches were then held in several towns in North Bohemia. Police had reinforcements in the region.

"The rise in security problems - increased petty crime and manifestations of ethnic hatred - are just the result of the overall deterioration in the region's socioeconomic situation," the authors of the report say. In their view, extraordinary deployments of police officers will not resolve the situation in the long term. The Agency also points out that current measures to overcome the lack of available appropriate housing or poverty and unemployment rates will also not lead to long-term improvement.

The report says last year's response process was not coordinated enough. The public administration did not have enough extra capacity and was not prepared to address such a crisis. The powers of municipalities, regional governments and the state administration, as well as the tasks undertaken by them, are also "insufficiently harmonized". Towns and villages in that district are said to have a "reduced willingness" to adopt integration measures, even though they could draw money from EU funds to finance them. The report says local representatives and politicians take a rather negative position toward such proposals and are passive about such issues. Last year, the institutions that took an active approach toward addressing the crisis were said to be the Interior Ministry, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, and the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner. The Ministry for Regional Development did not respond to the unrest at all.

The Agency warns that the situation could also become similarly acute in other places throughout the country and recommends establishing a Working Group to address social unrest which would be convened and managed by the Human Rights Commissioner should unrest break out. The Working Group would include deputy ministers from the Education Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Industry and Trade Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, the Regional Development Ministry, representatives of the Agency, and the relevant regional governor. The various ministries should also prepare their own plans for immediate interventions with specific offers of assistance in such cases, the authors of the report propose.

Šluknov district is just one problematic area in the country. According to an analysis published several years ago, more than 300 impoverished apartment buildings or entire neighborhoods occupied predominantly by Romani people have been identified in the Czech Republic. Approximately 80 00 people were estimated to live in such areas. Most of their adult residents are unemployed and their families are dependent on welfare. According to the Agency's findings, the number of such localities is rising. There could be more than 400 of them at present.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, Czech Press Agency, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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