Czech MP with extreme-right group is evicting Roma onto the street
Several Romani families in Ostrava are at risk of ending up on the street. They are the tenants of Lubomír Volný, an MP with the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement, which many in the Czech Republic view as Fascist, and he does not want to extend their contracts.
Volný is said to have made that decision in reaction to criticism from Czech MP Mikuláš Peksa (Pirates), who criticized him for "trafficking in poverty". The daily Deník N has been covering the subject.
Peksa reminded Volný that he had promised during the election to end "trafficking in poverty" and then referenced the fact that the SPD MP owns several apartment units in the excluded locality of Ostrava's Přívoz neighborhood and charges high rents for them. The Pirates' MP wanted Volný to extend the tenants' contracts and lower their rent so they would have more money left over every month for other necessities.
The call, in other words, was for Volný himself not to continue to abuse the state support that flows to socially vulnerable people to cover their housing costs. Volný responded by asking Peksa for his telephone number, saying he planned to give it to the tenants whose contracts he would not be extending.
Deník N reports that one tenant whose large family is now looking for other housing has since contacted Peksa and asked for his aid. "I didn't extend their contracts. Since they've been living in my property and not paying me rent, it's all the same. Mr Peksa, by making that declaration in the Chamber of Deputies, has pledged to take care of them as of 1 March, so maybe he will," Volný said.
The SPD MP asserts that while some of the renters' contracts have already expired, they are still living in the properties. The families are allegedly not paying him anything, and he called his renting of the units a "charity activity".
"[The renters] are getting money to pay for their accommodation, electricity, water and gas, and they are keeping it," Volný alleged. Local resident Mária Horváthová is now living in one of his buildings, which is listed as available for occupancy, with her 10 children.
Horváthová said her family has been living there for six years. Her contract was always concluded three months at a time and will expire at the end of March.
The rent and utilities there total CZK 17 000 [EUR 680], according to Horváthová. "It seems like a lot to us, but we're glad the kids have a place to lay their heads," she told news server iRozhlas when asked whether she believed she was paying too much for the apartment.
Evicting people onto the street
Just one person has contacted MP Peksa so far with a request for aid in finding new housing. "We received a phone call from one man. He complained that Mr Volný told him I am supposed to find him accommodation. We have been dealing with that since he called. We are doing our best to find him some housing so he won't end up out in the cold," Peksa said.
The Pirates' MP summed up by saying he found it distasteful that Volný is now throwing people onto the street. "I called him a trafficker in poverty, and I am convinced that he is one. He interpreted that to mean he should drive these people out into freezing weather," Peksa said.
If Volný wants to avoid being described as a trafficker in poverty, then he could charge rents corresponding to the quality of the housing, according to Peksa. The renter who contacted Peksa is named Miroslav Ziga, and he is concerned that not only will he end up on the street, but his children could be sent to a children's home as a consequence of the family's homelessness.
"Yesterday [Volný] called to say I have to pay the rent or he will immediately throw me out. I have 10 kids, I want to take care of them and not lose them. Our contract ended on 28 February, he was extending it month-to-month," said Ziga, who has been residing in the apartment for the last five years.
Ziga said that he has not negotiated much with Volný directly but came more into contact with a man whom he referred to as the SPD MP's "accomplice". He said he believed that everything about the arrangement had taken place correctly until now.
The father of 10 paid CZK 14 000 [EUR 560] monthly for rent and the same amount for utilities in the two-room apartment. However, he did not pay his most recent rent installment because Volný wants to throw him out now.
Margit Lebicová, a field worker for the nonprofit organization Vzájemné soužití (Life Together) who knows the situation in the locality well, disagrees with Volný's argument that his renters are not paying him enough. "I know they pay terribly high amounts of money for accommodation in a building without electricity. If you saw it, then it would be clear to you that the property is not worth that rent," she said.
Trafficking in poverty involves welfare recipients frequently paying exorbitant rents and is far from a problem in Ostrava alone. The Radiožurnál radio station most recently broadcast reporting mapping the case of an assistant to Czech MEP Jiří Pospíšil, the head of the TOP 09 party, named Jan Zedník, who is trafficking in poverty in the Most area, overcharging for the rental of apartment units that he acquired cheaply.
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