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July 6, 2022



Czech Govt Council on Roma Community Affairs establishes new team to resolve Romani refugee situation, to be led by Human Rights Commissioner

21.5.2022 12:31
The Czech Government Council on Roma Minority Affairs met on 20 May 2022. (PHOTO:  Cyril Koky)
The Czech Government Council on Roma Minority Affairs met on 20 May 2022. (PHOTO: Cyril Koky)

Steps to deal with the situation of Romani refugees from Ukraine will be proposed to the Government by a new team to be led by Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková; the group will consist of representatives of the relevant ministries, firefighters, the Refugee Facilities Administration and nonprofit organizations that work with refugees. The Human Rights Commissioner informed the Czech News Agency of the decision after yesterday's meeting of the Council. 

This was the first session of the full Council since Prime Minister Fiala took office. Subsidies for organizations working with refugees were discussed during the meeting.

"The working group will propose to the Government the procedures and measures to help particularly vulnerable groups of refugees, such as Romani families with children," said the Human Rights Commissioner. According to her, the team will meet regularly and prepare systemic solutions. 

Hundreds of refugees, mainly Romani families with children, remain at Prague's main train station. Representatives of nonprofit organizations who have been providing aid on the spot are criticizing the approach taken toward the Romani refugees. 

According to civil society, the state is doing nothing to resolve the situation. According to Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan (Mayors and Independents - STAN), some Romani refugees from Ukraine who are living at the main train station in Prague had been provided accommodation which they allegedly then left. 

Some refugees from Ukraine are also being vetted for whether they might also be citizens of Hungary. The Czech Republic will not consider such dual citizens eligible for aid and protection, as Hungary is an EU Member State. 

The mayor of the Czech capital has announced that there are allegedly no more accommodation capacities for refugees there. A "tent city" has been installed in the Troja quarter through which 250 people have passed so far. 

Romani organizations are providing aid there on the spot. "During a crisis it is important to expand emergency housing as necessary if there are no other options," the Human Rights Commissioner said. 

According to her, the aid being provided at the "tent city" in the Troja neighborhood is working so far. The refugees are reportedly being put in contact with social workers there. 

The condition of both the adult and the child refugees has also reportedly improved since they moved to the facility. The setup could be copied and used elsewhere, according to the Human Rights Commissioner. 

The Council discussed that and other options today. It is not yet clear where other "tent cities" could be built. 

The existing and planned state subsidies for this issue were also discussed by the Council. The Labor Ministry is preparing a program for organizations that work with refugees. 

Such organizations will be able to apply for expansion funding to strengthen their staffs. It was also agreed that the rules for the allocation of subsidies for building or renovating apartment units for refugees locally and regionally should be adjusted. 

The Ministry for Regional Development is providing such financial support. According to Laurenčíková, local authorities have not made use of that funding yet. 

The new setup should motivate local authorities even more to draw these funds and set up housing, the Human Rights Commissioner said. Romani organizations could also receive financial support from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

There are several thousand Romani refugees from Ukraine living in the Czech Republic. The Interior Ministry has issued 349 300 temporary protection visas since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. 

Almost two-fifths of temporary protection visas have been issued to children, while roughly 73 % of the adults to whom they have been issued are women. The Aliens Police has registered 250 200 such refugees.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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