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Czech Republic's second city sees Romani refugees from Ukraine sleeping in train station after refusing detention center accommodation

3.5.2022 12:21
Brno, Czech Republic:  Romani refugees from Ukraine at the main train station, 2 May 2022. (PHOTO:  Matěj Holan, Facebook)
Brno, Czech Republic: Romani refugees from Ukraine at the main train station, 2 May 2022. (PHOTO: Matěj Holan, Facebook)

Update as of 21:00 on 2 May: After the media started reporting on the critical situation of the Romani refugees from Ukraine at the train station in Brno, the Aliens Police revisited them along with city representatives and together started resolving the situation. Some of the Romani refugees were to have ended up at the accommodation point in the Židenice barracks, where firefighters have begun to build temporary accommodation. Firefighters brought mattresses there for the refugees. The issue of restrooms has also been solved there. Other Romani refugees will have to resolve problems with their documents at the assistance center.

A group of Romani refugees from Ukraine has appeared at the Brno train station near the shopping center, spreading out blankets to sit on while their children play there, and at night they have been sleeping on the ground. Local Romani volunteers brought them beverages and food over the weekend and yesterday. 

Police are monitoring the situation, spokesperson Pavel Šváb told the Czech News Agency (ČTK). According to him, the refugees have been granted temporary protection status but have refused accommodation. 

According to news server iDNES.cz, the Romani refugees in Brno allege that no accommodation was ever offered to them. "We settled down here because in the assistance center they told us they had no place for us," one of the Romani refugee women contacted by a reporter for Mladá fronta DNES newspaper told her on the spot. 

South Moravian Regional Authority spokesperson Alena Knotková said that in the event of refusing accommodation, refugees are no longer entitled to further claims. According to a volunteer civil society member of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, Alica Sigmund Heráková, a group will be created to help such people at the municipal level.

ČTK is still waiting for comment from the city. After Russia escalated its war on Ukraine in February, Ukrainians of all ethnicities have been fleeing the country. 

According to Šváb, the Romani group went through the process at the local assistance center for refugees from Ukraine. “[The Romani refugee Ukrainians] have temporary protection status," he said. 

"We know about the situation at the station and we are working on the spot. We also try to cooperate with nonprofit organizations and OSPOD (the Department of Social and Legal Protection of Children), because young children are involved,” said Šváb. 

According to the police spokesperson, the Romani refugees have refused the accommodation offered them. “Whoever does not have accommodation and comes to the assistance center, we register them and we look for accommodation for all refugees equally," South Moravian Regional Authority spokesperson Knotková described.

"However, if a refugee refuses, then he has to leave and is not entitled to further accommodation,” Knotková explained. Generally, the assistance center offers accommodation in dormitories, hotels, or penzions, but detention facilities managed by the Refugee Facilities Administration are also an option. 

“There is a problem for Romani groups in situations when a family of 20 or 30 members does not want to live apart from each other. Such capacity is not easy to find, so we also offer facilities run by the Refugee Facilities Administration," Knotková explained. 

"Some refused that," the regional spokesperson said. Nonprofit organizations in Brno confirm that the Romani refugees have been receiving accommodation offers.

"Last time we found accommodation for one group [of Romani refugees from Ukraine], but they immediately left. They migrate to different cities and will not stay long," Josef Vlach of the IQ Roma Servis organization told the local news server Brněnská drbna (Brno Gossip).

"As representatives of the nonprofit sector, we do not have any options for aiding people who do not want a helping hand," Vlach said. Veronika Kuželková of the Romodrom organization confirmed to ČTK that "The Roma [in Brno] are there completely voluntarily."

According to Heráková, a group will be created to help such people. “Brno is a big city and there are a lot of these people here," she said, pointing out that some do not like seeing big groups of Romani refugees at the station.

"Several such groups have passed through Brno and it is creating bad blood," Heráková said. According to her, about 1 200 Roma refugees have come to the Czech Republic so far. 

“There are different groups, from the most integrated to those from conditions that are socially the worst. It is harder for such people to integrate," Heráková said.

"I am in communication with a colleague who works at the municipality's Social Department to create an action group on this,” said the civil society member of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs. The situation at the train station in Brno was also commented on by former Brno city councillor and civic activist Matěj Holan. 

"Traditional Brno hospitality ... Ukrainians came to Brno. Brno and the South Moravian Region boast of taking care of them. However, they forgot to add that they meant white Ukrainians. The Roma are unlucky," Holan posted to Facebook.

Romani refugees from Ukraine have met with discrimination regularly while fleeing Russia's war; currently it is a big problem for them  to get accommodation in the Czech Republic and they are being offered short-term housing in detention facilities originally planned to house failed asylum-seekers awaiting deportation. These kinds of facilities frequently give the impression of actually being prisons, which is likely to be why Romani refugees from Ukraine, most of whom are women with children, are refusing that option.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brno, Police, pomoc, refugee, Ukraine



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