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Czech Romanies shocked by PM's statements

Prague, 30.8.2008 15:52, (ROMEA)

Ladislav Bily, Romany Regional Representatives Association executive secretary, today voiced concern about possible consequences of Czech elected officials' statements about the reasons of the growing number of Romany asylum seekers in Canada.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek (senior ruling Civic Democrats, ODS) said this week that the reason was the Romanies' economic situation rather than the violation of human rights in the Czech Republic.

Bily also criticised Interior Minister Ivan Langer (ODS) and Minorities and Human Rights Minister Dzamila Stehlikova (junior government Green Party, SZ) for their statements.

"Czech leading representatives described Romanies as people who harm the interests of Czech society and other citizens," Bily said in a statement he gave to CTK.

The Romany representatives have been "absolutely shocked" by the politicians' words and it is possible to expect the worsening of Romanies' situation in all spheres of life, the statement says.

Langer and Stehlikova have been called by the government to discuss the situation.

The growing number of Czech applicants for asylum in Canada has economic reasons rather than the state of human rights in the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said earlier this week.

He said the government had called on Interior Minister Ivan Langer and Human Rights and Minorities Minister Dzamila Stehlikova to discuss with Canadian authorities the situation that arose in connection with the growing number of Czechs, mainly Romanies, who seek asylum in Canada.

Topolanek said if there were a new threat of Canadian visas re-introduction, Langer would prepare a proposal for the government for how to face the problem.

Bily said Topolanek's statements would lead to the worsening of society's attitude to Romanies on the "local government level and in the areas of civil coexistence - at workplaces, in schools, hospitals, public institutions and in the housing area."

Right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis could perceive the statements made by the prime minister and his ministers as indirect support of their positions, Bily said.

In its report submitted recently to the government the Interior Ministry says that the number of Czechs, mainly Romanies, seeking asylum in Canada has been rising and it reached 470 by mid-July, but Canadian authorities so far do not intend to re-introduce visas for Czech citizens, which were lifted last November.

Although Canada is not considering re-imposing visa requirements for Czechs the situation has provoked tension on both sides.

Magdalena Firtova, spokeswoman for the Canadian embassy in Prague, said in July there was the possibility of re-introducing visa requirements for Czechs if the influx of Czech asylum applicants to Canada did not fade away.

She said, however, this will probably not happen for the time being.

Canada re-introduced visas for Czech citizens in 1997 after lifting them for a short period, in reaction to a high number of asylum seekers from the the Czech Republic, primarily Romanies.

In the 1996-2000 period 1677 people with Czech citizenship applied for asylum in Canada and 962 of them were granted it.

CTK
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Czech republic, Kanada



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