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Mayor of Czech Republic's second city alleges Romani refugees sleeping in the train station can access benefits in other countries, then admits she can't prove it

4.5.2022 13:38
Mayor of Brno Markéta Vaňková (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) on 2 May 2022 at the train station resolving the situation with a group of Romani refugees from Ukraine (PHOTO: Czech Television)
Mayor of Brno Markéta Vaňková (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) on 2 May 2022 at the train station resolving the situation with a group of Romani refugees from Ukraine (PHOTO: Czech Television)

Romani refugees from Ukraine again appeared at the main railway station in Brno, Czech Republic yesterday, even though on Monday city officials, in cooperation with police, brought 70 of them to be accommodated in the barracks at Židenice. Police spokesperson Pavel Šváb informed the Czech News Agency that yesterday morning there were about 20 Romani refugees from Ukraine at the station. 

According to Šváb, some of the Romani refugees in Brno yesterday had arrived there from Ostrava. A new advisory group should also help the city with this issue. 

The chair of the advisory group, Daniel Topinka, said that before the war, for example, when Roma from Romania have arrived in Brno, there were no major problems in the long run because after some time they have frequently decided to leave. In recent days, Romani refugees from Ukraine have begun to gather at the Brno train station, where they even spent the night. 

The police spokesperson said that while these Romani refugees from Ukraine have been granted temporary protection status, they have refused the accommodation offered to them. According to Regional Authority spokesperson Alena Knotková, they are therefore no longer entitled to request housing through the region.

The situation on Monday was dealt with by the police in the presence of Mayor Markéta Vaňková (Civic Democratic Party - ODS). "We took about 70 people, half were women and half children. I can't say how many people are now at the station or elsewhere, they are also clustering on Křenová Street at the Labor Office," she said.

At the barracks in Židenice, most of the Romani refugees from Ukraine were remaining there still on Tuesday, but some have already left. According to Šváb, there were about 20 Romani refugees from Ukraine at the station on Tuesday morning, some of whom came from Ostrava, where they have accommodation. 

"We are handling the situation and collaborating with nonprofit organizations and the city. We are dealing with whether we will take these other people to Židenice," said Šváb.

According to Mayor Vaňková, it is not possible to force refugees to stay in the accommodation offered by the city. "We have information that these persons migrate all over the country, changing their locations, and that they frequently leave the Czech Republic and then return for benefits. This is caused to some extent by the fact that there is no coordination in Europe and nobody is monitoring what degree of protection these people receive in the individual states," the mayor alleged.

When asked by journalists whether refugees can access benefits in multiple countries, she said it could not be ruled out. "These persons can access benefits in multiple countries, but I have not verified this information," she added.

The city has set up an advisory group on the integration of refugee Ukrainians fleeing Russia's aggression. The group will advise the city in the fields of education, employment and social services. 

The advisory group would also deal with Romani refugees from Ukraine. "In the past, we had similar arrivals of Roma from Romania. Such matters can appear to be quite current. In the long run, however, there has never been any major problem. After evaluating the situation, such people most often decided to leave when they found there were certain limits in the area of assistance. It was an experiment on their part, one that failed, so we will forget about this again quite soon," said Topinka, who also works at the Faculty of Arts at Palacký University in Olomouc.

ryz, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Brno, Roma, Ukraine, war



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