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June 28, 2022



Czech Pirate Party starting new approach to social inclusion of Roma in northern town

12.6.2019 9:04
The Chanov housing estate in Most, Czech Republic (2019). (PHOTO:  Miroslav Brož, archive of the Pirate Party)
The Chanov housing estate in Most, Czech Republic (2019). (PHOTO: Miroslav Brož, archive of the Pirate Party)

The city council in Most, Czech Republic, has planned to erect new accommodation for members of the Romani community there that consists of installing "containers" at the Chanov housing estate instead of repairing the existing properties there, and neither the Pirate Party nor the local Roma like the idea. The party has launched a new approach to emancipating and including Romani people that consists of planning a solution for the situation at Chanov together with its Romani residents.

The method is inspired by a joint program of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, ROMACT, that has successfully been implemented in many European countries. The Czech Republic, however, has decided not to develop the concept, as has Hungary under Prime Minister Orbán.

New housing - the city council's view

The city is designing new housing arrangements for the residents of Chanov. The council will have modular cells, similar to the "containers" infamously erected in the Czech town of Vsetín more than a decade ago, installed on the housing estate.

In order to build the modular housing, the city will draw on a state subsidy from a Regional Development Ministry program. In the past the city demolished several of the prefabricated apartment buildings at Chanov because of their state of repair, while others had their maintenance problems fixed.

Block 3 on the estate, which is in a devastated state of repair, could be demolished next year. Ten families still live there.

"It is impossible for that building to undergo another season in which it would need to be heated, we are addressing relocating the tenants and in the autumn we will request a state subsidy to demolish it," Mayor Jan Paparega (ProMOST) has said. On 6 June a group of active local residents assembled at Chanov to discuss the plan.

"During the next few weeks we will design options for solutions and then submit them to the city leadership," said Miroslav Brož, the Pirates' expert on the integration of Romani people. One crucial subject for that first meeting of the Chanov community group was exactly the preparations for the building of the container housing.

A crazy plan

One person who attended that meeting, housing estate resident Jan C., gave his opinion as follows:  "The city leadership's crazy plan to move Romani people into containers is one that we reject. It will not improve the situation at Chanov, on the contrary, it will make it worse. One of the aims of our working group is to stop this plan and offer a better, cheaper alternative. That could mean, for example, that the Romani people currently living in the damaged apartment building at Chanov, in collaboration with the city, would fix the building themselves. Indeed, that approach has been taken in the past. Men from Chanov have worked on fixing the other buildings there. They are handy, they undertook the reconstruction masterfully, they have kept an eye on the repaired buildings ever since to prevent further damage, and they greatly appreciate the housing that they reconstructed with their own hands."

"In Most, different planning groups of experts and representatives of the responsible institutions attempting to plan solutions for Chanov have been meeting for many years. A big weakness of these planning groups, however, is that the Romani residents themselves have never been involved, they are viewed as just passive objects of integration, not as the crucial, most important partners in any discussion about their own futures. Any measures that are designed for Romani people without them will subsequently fail and do not contribute to the much-needed change for the better. We want to change this. Inventing solutions for Roma without them is a dead end," Adam Komenda, a local assembly member for the Pirates, described the party's plans.

Time bomb

According to Komenda, the Pirate Party is aware that the Czech Republic's integration policy for Romani people is not succeeding and that the situation in the socially excluded localities is continually deteriorating. That is exactly why the Pirates are intensively looking for alternative, innovative methods of including Romani people into society through their own emancipation that will lead to resolving the situation of the socially excluded localities.

The Pirates have already presented a Czech version of the ROMACT program in two regions. The most recent presentation happened in Ostrava for local assembly members from the entire Moravian-Silesian Region.

"Building containers on the outskirts of the existing ghettos is not a solution, but a time bomb. A new generation of Romani people will grow up in those conditions who will not even be able to imagine what it is like to live in a standard apartment. The path to integration does not lead in that direction. The Pirates will always speak out against plans that chiefly lack any conceptual coherency and are just populist shortcuts. The key to the actual resolution of these problems is involving Romani people themselves in the entire process of their emancipation and inclusion," commented Pirate Party chair Ivan Bartoš.

Container housing units began to be called "Čunkodomky" in the Czech Republic when the former Mayor of Vsetín, Jiří Čunek, used this method of "addressing" housing for local Romani people there. First he evicted and relocated Romani tenants renting from the town into a centrally-located apartment building next to the hospital, and after other residents complained, he evicted and relocated some of the Romani tenants into container housing on the outskirts, while others were forced to relocate to properties outside not just the local county, but in an entirely different administrative region, and forced under the threat of having their children removed from the family to assume loans they could not afford to purchase real estate that was not fit for habitation in remote areas.

fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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