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Czech regional governors accuse Romani refugee Ukrainians of "abusing" aid in the Czech Republic

23.4.2022 10:58
Governor of the South Bohemian Region Martin Kuba (ODS) and Governor of the Pardubice Region Martin Netolický (ČSSD) on CNN Prima News (2022) (PHOTO: CNN Prima News)
Governor of the South Bohemian Region Martin Kuba (ODS) and Governor of the Pardubice Region Martin Netolický (ČSSD) on CNN Prima News (2022) (PHOTO: CNN Prima News)

Governor of the South Bohemian Region Martin Kuba (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) and Governor of the Pardubice Region Martin Netolický (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) claimed during a CNN Prima News program broadcast on 21 April that a "specific group" of people allegedly abusing social benefits has been coming to the Czech Republic from Ukraine. Although neither politician used the word "Roma" during the show, it was clear that they were talking about the Romani refugees fleeing Russia's aggression against Ukraine. 

The entire program started with a reportage on the Romani refugees living in tents at the Regional Assistance Center for Aid to Ukraine (KACPU) in Prague's Vysočany quarter. Both governors are thereby continuing the hateful rhetoric against Romani refugees that was begun by the Governor of the Moravian-Silesian Region, Ivo Vondrák, who had previously accused Romani refugees from Ukraine of theft. 

The police have said that they have not had to solve any such thefts. The Romea.cz news server found that Romani refugees were being automatically segregated by the Czech staff from all other refugees at Ostrava's refugee aid center.

"I dare say that, in all fairness, we are of course discussing the fact that the refugee crisis also brings with it some effects and some situations that are simply being abused by certain groups of the population," said Governor Netolický of the ČSSD. He even claimed such refugees had "no reason" to flee Ukraine, because the war is allegedly not happening where they live.

"If the refugees who are arriving and whom we consider so-called inadaptables speak Hungarian, then just look on the map where they are coming from," said Netolický, adding that it is the Transcarpathian Region. "If I'm not mistaken, there is no dramatic war in Transcarpathia," he continued, saying he believes these refugees are trying to "abuse" the situation.

The Czech Republic does not distinguish where refugees are fleeing from in Ukraine and is receiving everybody regardless of where their home is. Governor Kuba of the governing ODS party also agreed with Netolický, however.

"If 100 or 50 such people come to a regional KACPU, such an extended family that genuinely just speaks Hungarian, you are not able to talk to them properly, they have a completely different lifestyle, they often have completely different hygiene habits, so imagine that you bring such people to some accommodation facility and they frequently refuse to even get out of the bus, they basically behave quite unusually. They are next door to a village where maybe 100 people live, and it is quite clear that the Czech community is simply not able to accept this," Kuba literally said on the show.

"In my opinion, it is unfair to want all Czechs to accept this," Kuba said of the refugees fleeing Russia's war. Both he and Netolický then stated that the regions would not be able to cope with the situation and that everything must be handled by Romani organizations that are to get involved in helping Romani refugees.

"I agree that the non-profit sector must get involved if it wants to really solve the situation," the governor from the ODS party said after the governor from the ČSSD party expressed that idea. Romani organizations have already been aiding Romani refugees since the very beginning of Russia's occupation of Ukraine. 

"The total number of Romani refugees from Ukraine is estimated at 1 200. That means we are working with about half of these people in different places. They are big families, about two-thirds are children under 15, and then they are either senior citizens over 65 years of age or women. This means that the really young men of working age stayed in Ukraine and were drafted into the army," Romodrom director Nikola Taragos said 14 days ago after talks with Labor and Social Affairs Minister Marian Jurecka.

Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Racism, refugee, Ukraine, Xenophobia



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