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Czech Govt to discuss strategy for handling ghettos at tomorrow's cabinet session

Prague, 20.9.2011 7:54, (ROMEA)

Tomorrow the Czech Government is scheduled to discuss proposed measures for handling the country's ghetto problem. There are already around 400 such impoverished places in the Czech Republic. The "Strategy for the Fight against Social Exclusion 2011 - 2015" will involve more than 100 steps and was drafted by the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Romani Localities. The Agency's director, Martin Šimáček, as well as the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, are anxiously keeping this material a secret for the time being.

The document is said to propose steps in six areas: Education; employment and welfare; health and social services; housing; regional development and public administration; and security. One proposed measures will be the option to legally enjoin Romani parents to send their children to nursery school. The Agency head has confirmed this is the case, but did not want to reveal details of the plan.

According to an analysis that is five years old by now, there are more than 300 impoverished apartment complexes and neighborhoods in the Czech Republic, predominantly inhabited by as many as 80 000 Romani people. Most adults living in these ghettos are unemployed and usually dependent on welfare. The Agency head says findings from the field indicate that by now there are 400 such places. Recently the inter-ethnic situation has become particularly acute in the Šluknov foothills in North Bohemia. Czech PM Petr Nečas (ODS) recently said the solution to these problems will not be a short-term one and should be based on three pillars: Linking welfare disbursal to children's school attendance, linking welfare disbursal to the performance of community service for municipalities, and "applying the same rules to everyone".

A "Romani Integration Concept" was adopted by the government at the end of 2009 and tasked various ministries with including Romani people into society by 2013. Šimáček previously told the Czech Press Agency that the Strategy his Agency is preparing does not target Romani people only, but everyone living in adverse economic situations.

The cabinet was originally meant to have the "Strategy for the Fight against Social Exclusion" on the table two years ago. The government of former PM Mirek Topolánek tasked former Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb with developing the materials by the end of 2009, but completion of the Strategy was gradually postponed. After last year's elections, the Agency took over preparation of the Strategy, and a Working Group started preparing draft measures last September.

Karel Holomek, chair of the Society of Roma in Moravia, who was a member of the Strategy coordination group, recently wrote about the design of the Strategy on his blog, saying several proposals had been abandoned not only for lack of funds, but evidently also because "they do not completely meet the Government's presumed intentions." "There is even the danger that the Strategy could be rejected by the Government should there be more such disputed items or if there simply isn't money for it," Holomek wrote.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, jr, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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