Czech town "celebrates" 10th anniversary of Romani evictions and creation of ghetto with fireworks
Romani tenants of "container housing" in the locality of Poschlá on the outskirts of the Czech town of Vsetín would like to move away, ideally back into town. "We are from Vsetín, we want to remain living there and we would like to have the same conditions as everybody else," Marián Tulej, who administers the housing units, told journalists yesterday.
The media were invited to Poschlá by the Mayor of Vsetín, Jiří Čunek (Christian Democrats), to "celebrate" the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Romani ghetto there. The town moved Romani tenants into the container housing in Poschlá in the year 2006 after evicting them from a building slated for demolition in the center.
A total of 158 people now live in 36 container units in Poschlá and are particularly complaining of mold in the units. "It leaks here, there are bugs. The city is trying to fix things, but whatever they do just has a temporary effect. There are people living here who have vision, who want to improve their lot. There are families who live orderly lives, who send their children to school, and who would like to move out of these units," Tulej, who has also been a field social worker and who lives in a container unit himself, told the press.
Tulej said the Romani residents are taking more care of the grounds surrounding the buildings, not just cleaning up their own homes, and that they are complying with various services, such as waste collection, according to their schedules. The oldest tenant of the container units is 80-year-old Justýna Tulejová, who was evicted from the centrally-located building a decade ago.
"At [that building] some people were not careful, their units were trashed. Some of them were not raised right. The rest of us had well-maintained units," she told the press, adding that while it has not been bad for her to live in Poschlá, she wants to move into a retirement home now because of her health problems.
For the time being, however, her request to be relocated has been denied. "I am afraid that something will happen to me here, I don't have any children here, I'm here all by myself," she told the press.
Cost of living high due to electric bills
According to Tulej, the container tenants are doing their best to find different housing for themselves because it costs them between CZK 10 000 and CZK 12 000 (EUR 370 - EUR 444) per month to live in Poschlá due to their high electric bills for heating. It is not easy, however, for the Romani tenants to leave the facility, as not every landlord wants to lease apartments to Romani people, Tulej said.
Čunek said the municipality does not have very many apartments in town to offer. "Everybody would like to leave, but we don't have apartments for them all now and we won't be having them in the future either," the mayor told the Czech News Agency yesterday.
The municipality owns 560 apartment units, 15 of which become available maximum per year, and there are more than 100 potential tenants on the waiting list, according to the mayor. The local authority said it wants to improve the conditions of Romani residents living in the town by taking advantage of EU funding, which it would like to acquire thanks to its collaboration with the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion.
The mayor said that during the past 10 years several of the families who have met all the terms of living in the Poschlá locality and who do not owe the town any money have been leased apartment units owned by the town back inside the town limits. He also said that 25 families have also been evicted from the Poschlá locality during that time, allegedly because they failed to meet their obligations.
Last year two container tenants' leases were ended, but there have not been any evictions from the locality this year so far. Čunek also told the press that the container tenants' ability to pay their rent, services and utilities regularly has improved, with less than CZK 20 000 (EUR 740) in back rent currently owed to the municipality.
The mayor stands by his decision 10 years ago to build the container ghetto and to move 230 tenants there. "We didn't want 230 people migrating around town, we could have just evicted them without offering an alternative. They would have done their best to move in with their relatives or to have moved somewhere else, and that would have created a much bigger problem for the town than their living at Poschlá does," he alleged.
For several years there has been an ongoing dispute between the municipality and several of the Romani families whom the local authority "deported" from the centrally- located building 10 years ago to other municipalities completely outside of the Zlín Region, and no final verdict has yet been handed down in the case. The Romani plaintiffs are of the opinion that the local authority violated their fundamental rights when they were forcibly "deported" from Vsetín and simultaneously rendered de facto unable to choose where they would move with their families.
The plaintiffs are seeking CZK 5.2 million (EUR 192 000) in compensation from the town. Yesterday's tenth anniversary "celebration", which is also being held during the run-up to the regional elections, was organized by the Warex firm, which built the container housing in 2006.
Mayor Čunek is said to have "merely" given his auspices to the Warex event. The program included fireworks being launched from the site of the building that was demolished 10 years ago and from which the Romani tenants were evicted.
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