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Czech Radio Roma programming editor seeking asylum in Canada

Prague, 4.6.2009 9:55, (ROMEA)

Chief editor of Czech Radio's Roma programming Anna Poláková is seeking asylum in Canada together with her entire family. Czech Radio news director Hana Hikelová told ČTK today that "According to the material Anna Poláková provided me, her family has faced indiscriminate attacks recently."

VIDEO
Canadian television report on Roma refugees from the Czech Republic

"The fact that we have decided to seek asylum is not at all related to my work at the radio, but to the constant attacks on my family and the radicalization of society," Poláková wrote in an e-mail to her employer. In the e-mail she announced that she and six other members of her family would be seeking asylum from the Canadian authorities at the airport in Canada.

Several Romani activists are calling on the Roma to emigrate to Canada. Between January and March 653 Czech citizens requested asylum in Canada due to alleged discrimination. In May Canadian PM Stephen Harper indicated during a visit to Prague that his country might renew visas for Czech citizens if there is no improvement.

When asked by ČTK today, the Canadian Embassy in Prague said it does not have updated statistics on the number of Czech asylum seekers. According to the most recent data available, 653 Czech citizens requested asylum during the first quarter of this year, more than two-thirds the number requesting asylum all of last year (861). During the first three months of this year, 34 Czechs have been granted asylum. The Canadian Embassy stated earlier that Canada has granted asylum to a total of 118 Czech citizens so far during 2008 and 2009.

Hikelová did not say what the specific reasons for Poláková's departure were. "The attacks are not related to her work, they occurred some time ago," Hikelová said. Poláková herself did not experience an attack, but her son did, and her husband was allegedly blackmailed.

Poláková reported on her experience with racist attacks in an article on the web pages of Czech Radio almost seven years ago. For example, during the 1990s unidentified perpetrators allegedly beat up her six-year-old son. "We did not report everything that occurred to us, but those responsibile were never found anyway," Poláková complained at the time.

Her family is said to have been attacked directly in their flat in Libeň distruct of Prague, again by perpetrators who were never identified. "Our case was never solved, like so many others," Poláková said. Out of fear of racist attacks she and her family spent two years seeking asylum in Western Europe, but were not successful in Germany or anywhere else.

Hikelová said the Roma programming of Czech Radio would continue. "We will handle it with other staff, the news reporting will not be affected," Hikelová said.

Novinky.cz reports that a 30-member group of Czech Roma have been living all week at the international airport in Toronto. They left the airport building today. According to the Canadian paper The National Post they have traveled to the city of Hamilton, where a Roma community of 3 000 is living.

Romani activists point to the rising number of attacks on Romani families. In May, unidentified perpetrators in Zdiby near Prague attacked a home occupied by a Romani family, throwing two Molotov cocktails at it. No one was injured and the fire was put out in time.

A similar attack occurred in Vítkov na Opavsku. Three Molotov cocktails were thrown into the home, burning a two-year-old girl and her parents in the subsequent blaze. Police have yet to find the perpetrators and it is not yet clear whether the attack was racially motivated.

The extreme-right wing Workers' Party and the nationalist National Party have profiled themselves as against the Roma and anti-Roma rhetoric is the basis of their election campaigns.

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, CTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Czech republic, Kanada



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