Czech President insults Romani people yet again after casting his ballot
Speaking on Friday afternoon after casting his ballot, Czech President Miloš Zeman made remarks that insulted Romani people in the Czech Republic yet again, his second such remark that day and the third in 10 days. Remarking that "Nazism was a long time ago", he dismissed the 20th-century suffering of Romani people - which is the reason many Romani people today do not self-identify themselves as Romani to Czech state authorities during the census.
In the morning on Friday Zeman had reiterated his manipulative allegations that "90 %" of Romani people in the Czech Republic do not work. The ROMEA organization refuted his claims using the available data, which show that 70 % of the Romani population does work.
"I appreciate all Romani people who work. Unfortunately, it's just 10 % of them. During the census, 11 000 identified themselves as Romani. Ask yourselves a different question: What kind of nationality can this be if the nation cannot even manage to espouse its own nationality and instead of that lists themselves as Slovak, Czech, Hungarian, I don't know what all," Zeman said at the polls.
When Czech Television reporter Richard Samko, who is a Romani community member, told Zeman that the hesitancy to self-identify is because of Romani people's historical experience and fears associated with the country's Nazi and the Communist past, Zeman said: "That's a terribly long time ago, though. As far as the communist past goes, unlike other people here, the Romani people didn't suffer that much during communism."
Speaking at a press conference earlier that day, Zeman had said he insisted his claims about Romani people not working were accurate, even though he had been subjected to a wave of criticism for them - Romani people living all over Europe, including an MEP, have begun to send photographs of themselves on the job through the Facebook networking site. "On the basis of my visits to the so-called excluded localities, I have arrived at the opinion, communicated to me by mayors and other local representatives, that 90 % of Romani residents of such areas do not work. I am glad to have received photographs of the 10 % who do work, thanks for those," he said.
An estimated 250 000 Romani people live in the Czech Republic. Half of them live in excluded ghettos.
The other half comprise the Romani intelligentsia and middle class. Despite achieving higher education, success at work, sufficient incomes and financial solvency, many of them encounter discrimination and intolerance just because of their Romani origin, as reports on the state of the Romani minority find.
Monika Mihaličková of the ROMEA organization says the President is lying and manipulating information yet again. "In the Czech Republic there are an estimated 150 000 economically active Romani people. Among the socially excluded, 75 000 are economically active. If we were to use the most recent figures from the year 2015, then about 50 000 Romani people living in those localities are jobless. That means 70 % of the Romani people in the country work for a living," Mihaličková said in response to Zeman's most recent allegations.
There are currently 230 000 unemployed persons in the Czech Republic. "From this it follows that 80 % of the persons unemployed here are not Romani," Mihaličková said.
Speaking in the Olomouc Region last week, Zeman insinuated that the unemployed people in one of the communities he was visiting were all members of the Romani community. "I am decidedly no friend of communism, but during communism Romani people had to work. Most of them worked as ditch- diggers, and if they refused to work, they were designated as work-shy and went to prison. The Romani labor platoons were led by Romani men who had natural authority. If somebody on their team didn't work, they slapped him around. It's a very humane method that worked most of the time," media reports quoted the Czech President as saying.
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has sharply criticized Zeman for the remarks. In their view, his statements are racist, are contributing to inciting fear and hatred, could endanger people's safety, and Zeman should resign as head of state for having decided to use such rhetoric.
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