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December 13, 2019
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Czech MP dresses down her committee members for treating institutionalized infants like animals in a zoo

27.2.2019 12:27
Vice-Mayor of Most, Markéta Stará, welcoming those participating in the Czech lower house committees' session at the Chanov housing estate in February 2019. (PHOTO:  ROMEA)
Vice-Mayor of Most, Markéta Stará, welcoming those participating in the Czech lower house committees' session at the Chanov housing estate in February 2019. (PHOTO: ROMEA)

On Thursday, 21 February, the Health Committee and the Social Policy Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic held a joint session that involved traveling to the northern Bohemian town of Most. The joint session was also attended by Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová, Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch, and the Governor of the Ústecký Region, Oldřich Bubeníček.

The program included a tour of the infamous Chanov housing estate, which has long been known as a socially excluded locality mostly inhabited by Romani people, and a visit to a regional institution providing care to newborns whose parents cannot care for them. Vice-Mayor Markéta Stará welcomed the visitors to Chanov and described its history to them as follows: "In the 1970s, Most's Old Town was demolished to make mining possible, and people were relocated here. Originally the Chanov housing estate had 13 apartment buildings. Currently it has nine, since 2002 some of the buildings have had to be demolished because they were uninhabitable."

The vice-mayor also estimated that there are approximately 1 150 permanent residents of Chanov. The town of Most administers 253 apartment units there, the only properties it owns.

As part of the tour, two apartments were shown to the visitors. One was in a disgusting state of repair, in a building that had yet to be reconstructed, and one was in a reconstructed building - which was, by the way, the only building of the nine with hot water service.

In an interview for ROMEA TV, social worker Monika Levá said one reason for the visit to the locality was to show the politicians a reality that frequently does not correspond to the media's depiction of Chanov, which has also recently been featured in the controversial Czech Television sitcom called "Most!", which has set viewing records for Monday night on prime time:  "We are in daily contact with these people, but if they have a problem living here or want to move away, I don't know about it. That's not happening here. This is about making the visitors familiar with this most infamous excluded locality and showing them that the housing does not match the media image. We visited apartments where it is clear to see that the residents maintain them and live there decently."

After the joint session, where the Government's 15 measures for combating poverty were discussed, the program continued with a tour of Most's Institution for Nursing Infants. Members of the committee agreed that while it would be an error to abolish such facilities, their transformation is necessary.

The Institution, according to its director, Helena Cidrychová, is the facility in the Czech Republic from which the most children are adopted abroad. Last year more children were adopted abroad from there, for the first time, than the facility managed to place in families in the Czech Republic.

The biggest interest in adopting children from the Czech Republic, according to the director, is from Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Sweden, but Austrians, Icelanders and Italians also travel to Most to adopt children. "Foreign applicants are far more tolerant, not just about the children's skin color, but also about different disabilities. We are glad of this international adoption, it is, for many of these children, the only way for them to access life in a family and not a children's home," the director said.

Some MPs who took photos of and with the babies were criticized by their fellow politicians. Some of the MPs declined to even enter the room where the infants were in their cots, with soothing music constantly being played to them, and were uncomfortable that their colleagues were looking at the children as if they were animals in a zoo.

"These are children, not panda cubs," one MP told her fellow committee members. The chair of the Health Committee, Věra Adámková, publicly reproached the politicians for their behavior later:  "The tour was very moving, but those children are not goods on display. When you were told not to walk on the carpet, why did 15 of you walk on it anyway? Don't be angry with me, but you really didn't handle that well," she said during the discussion after the visit, and threatened to report anybody who published the photographs they had taken to the police.

brf, Die, th, vhl, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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