Czech Human Rights Minister removes director of Agency for Social Inclusion
Yesterday the Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation, Jiří Dienstbier, removed Martin Šimáček as the director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. News server Romea.cz was the first to break the news today in the Czech Republic.
The news has been officially confirmed by the minister's spokesperson, Jarmila Balážová, and by Šimáček himself. Dienstbier has entrusted control of the Agency to Deputy Director Alena Zieglerová, who until now has managed one of its departments.
"The reasons and the next steps will first be discussed in the days to come with the Agency staff. Nothing will be changed about the Agency's mission or work. We will inform you as to our next steps in due time," said Jiří Souček, a member of the minister's cabinet.
Šimáček remains an employee and will leave the post of director at the end of June. The Agency first began its operations in March 2008.
In February 2009, Šimáček became its director, beating out 15 other candidates. He was appointed by then-Human Rights Minister Michael Kocáb.
Šimáček has dedicated his entire professional life to the isses of poverty and social inclusion. He began as an interpreter for asylum-seekers in Great Britain and worked for eight years for the People in Need organization, most recently as the director of its Social Integration Programs for its Central Bohemian regional branch, and has also long collaborated with the Education Ministry and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry.
According to an analysis produced several years ago, there are approximately 300 so-called excluded localities in the Czech Republic, i.e., impoverished apartment complexes and neighborhoods. Around 80 000 people, predominantly Romani people, live in these areas.
Experience from the field has shown that the number of these ghettos is rising. Agency for Social Inclusion advisers are supposed to help local councils, police, nonprofits and schools work together to improve the inclusion situation; the Agency currently works in 36 locations around the country.
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