Czech govt council to discuss Romanies seeking asylum in Canada
Czech Human Rights and Minorities Minister Dzamila Stehlikova wants to discuss the controversial issue of an growing number of Czech Romanies seeking asylum in Canada in the government council for Romany affairs, she said today.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Wednesday economic reasons rather than the state of human rights in the Czech Republic were behind the growing number of Czech asylum applicants in Canada.
Ladislav Bily, Romany Regional Representatives Association executive secretary, said in reaction that "Czech leading representatives described Romanies as people who harm the interests of Czech society and other citizens." (more here... Czech Romanies shocked by PM's statements)
Bily criticised not only Topolanek, but also Stehlikova and Interior Minister Ivan Langer for their statements on the issue.
Stehlikova said some Czechs abused the asylum by drawing social support for refugees and persecuted persons in order to improve their financial situation.
She pointed out today that her criticism concerns the particular asylum applicants, and definitely not the Romany community in general.
Stehlikova repeatedly said she believes Romanies or any other groups are not persecuted in the Czech Republic and there is therefore no reason to apply for asylum abroad in great numbers.
The government council for Romany affairs will deal with the issue on September 12, with and Bily will attend the meeting, too, Stehlikova said.
Topolanek said earlier this week Langer and Stehlikova were charged with discussing the problem with Canadian authorities.
According to the latest ministerial report, the number of Czechs, mainly Romanies, seeking asylum in Canada has been rising and it reached 470 by mid-July, but Canadian authorities so far do not intend to re-introduce visas for Czech citizens, which were lifted last November.
Although Canada is not considering reintroducing visa requirements for Czechs, the situation has provoked tension on both sides.
Canada re-introduced visas for Czech citizens in 1997 after lifting them for a short period, in reaction to a high number of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, primarily Romanies. In the 1996-2000 period, 1677 people with Czech citizenship applied for asylum in Canada and 962 of them were granted it.
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