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Czech survey on migration in socially excluded localities finds people move too frequently, either to escape debt or because the mafia evicts them

4.5.2017 11:40
June 2013 on Přednádraží Street - one of the Romani families is moving out. (PHOTO:  Iniciativa Otrokem rasy - Slave of Race Initiative)
June 2013 on Přednádraží Street - one of the Romani families is moving out. (PHOTO: Iniciativa Otrokem rasy - Slave of Race Initiative)

The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, as part of its project called the "Campaign against Hate Violence and Racism", has published two surveys about loan-sharking and migration inside of socially excluded localities. News server Romea.cz publishes here in full translatoin a commentary on their findings by Roman Matoušek, who summarizes their recommendations regarding internal migration in the Czech Republic.

Notes on the findings of the survey on migration inside of socially excluded localities

Internal relocation within a country is an absolutely natural phenomenon, the intensity of which can be very different for different people depending on cultural factors. Even though any internatonal comparison of this phenomenon is tricky, the differences between countries are actually remarkable.

According to statistics, in the USA an American will move house over the course of a lifetime more than 11 times on average, while similar data for European countries shows the number of such moves as somewhere between three and six. The Czech Republic falls at the lower end of this spectrum, which is not surprising given the famous saying here that it is "better to go up in flames than to move".

According to the census, roughly half the inhabitants of the Czech Republic live in the same community as where they were born. Despite these differences in the migration behavior of the Czech Republic and the USA, however, they are both basically functioning, mature societies.

I think this introduction is a good illustration of how difficult the topic of internal migration is and how demanding are the normative questions associated not just with its research, but mainly with the policies targeting internal migration. In the Czech Republic there is a significant discourse about how low willingness to relocate or even to commute for work negatively influences the economy, maintaining high unemployment in some areas and high unfilled job numbers in others.

This survey, on the other hand, follows the situations in which moving house is a problem, or in which it exacerbates other problems. The survey touches, with varying intensity, on four main characteristics that distinguish "problem-free" relocations from those that are, from the perspective of public policy aims and of their impacts, problematic.

Too-frequent moves

However complex it is to establish a universal standard for when frequent moves are considered a problem, this basically has to do with frequent relocations as a consequence and manifestation of housing insecurity. According to ETHOS (the European Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion), housing insecurity is one of the categories of homelessness, and those who move several times a month between different friends who put them up, or several times annually, are, in that sense, homeless.

Forced or involuntary moves

The reasons for moving are very often forced or involuntary ones. This survey describes one motivation for relocation as "escaping debts", when a household does its best to flee its creditors but cannot permanently do so and its situation becomes further exacerbated, while in other circumstances, moving can also be a consequence of one's civil or other rights not being upheld, which people at risk of social exclusion do not take into consideration and therefore simply allow themselves to be thrown onto the street by mafiosi.

Negative (immediate and long-term) impacts of moving on households

Housing insecurity has many immediate impacts on households - financial, organizational, timewise - and other costs associated with moving, getting accustomed to new housing, the risk of losing contacts, and the impossibility of creating a home for oneself and having a stable environment, the importance of which, at some phases of child development, is quite emphasized. Some of the testimonies by the households participating in the survey rejected the notion that they were subjected to such influences, but denial is one of the psychological strategies for coping with stress, and it is not necessary to emphasize that housing insecurity does not make it possible to hold a steady job, to have income from one, to plan for the future, etc.

Negative societal impacts

The Campaign against Hate Violence and Racism arose as a reaction to one of the recent exaggerated, extreme societal consequences of the relocations of socially excluded persons (and not just them) - namely, the extremist demonstrations and marches convened by local non-Romani inhabitants against the Romani people who are living in many towns in the Czech Republic. Society, however, has already (so far covertly) for a long time - and perhaps unconsciously - been bearing many of the consequences of these relocations.

Those consequences include the cost of raising children in state institutions, the long-term unemployment of the people whose housing insecurity makes it impossible for them to get jobs or arrange good educations for their children, the costs of social work, etc. In recent years, it has rather been the exception for significant migrations to happen between towns that might vigorously boost the number of those living in socially excluded localities all at once, but that phenomenon, too, has had its impacts.

The recommendations for how to address the internal, negative relocations by socially excluded persons, therefore, logically target both directions - in addition to recommending better tracking of this migration (by bureaucrats and through evidence) and of the actual presence of such persons, the main recommendation for how to address the aspects of social exclusion that immediately lead to such relocations is that the state provide stable social housing (whether that be by the central administration adopting a law, or through local policies preventing housing loss with the aid of social work, debt counseling, etc.). Addressing debts and social housing are significant social inclusion topics for this election period, and we believe that the conclusions drawn by our elected representatives will materialize in crucial, much-anticipated legislation in this area.

ryz, Roman Matoušek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Agentura pro sociální začleňování, Housing, Stěhování, Výzkum



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