Nikola Taragoš: We want the Czech ombudsman removed for his repeated attacks on Romani people, he does not understand exclusion and is a populist
According to Czech Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček, the situation in socially excluded localities is mainly due to their inhabitants, whom he characterizes as people who make no effort to change their situations and who just trash one apartment unit after another, remarks he has made in response to the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion's current findings on the living conditions available to the inhabitants of excluded localities. Nikola Taragoš, the director of the Romodrom organization, strongly disagrees with those statements and plans to attempt to remove Křeček from office.
According to the Agency, the inhabitants of socially excluded localities are mainly encumbered by collections proceedings and indebtedness, which are the biggest obstacles to their getting jobs. "Debtors in collections proceedings are demotivated by receiving just the minimum wage for their work," the Agency's press release reads.
"It is not uncommon for employers to reject applicants who are involved in collections proceedings due to the numerous debt payment deductions they would have to account for - the administration of collections is a heavy burden on those who manage personnel," the Agency has found. According to the ombudsman, however, the inhabitants of such localities are responsible for their own situations.
"Those who reside in the excluded localities are mainly the people who have contributed to their birth and creation to a decisive extent," Křeček has written for the Aktuálně.cz news server. "They are unemployed people stuck in the benefits system, people without even a basic education, people who never try to change anything, not even to at least cause a change in their own children's lifestyle, people who trash one apartment and building made available to them after another."
Taragoš disagrees with the ombudsman and confirms the Agency's findings. "We have been working in this area for a long time, and in the case of housing support projects, where we provide standard housing for socially disadvantaged clients, about half of those people subsequently leave the benefit system," he described his experience to Romea.cz.
"On the contrary, those people then pay in to the system. Other aspects of life then change for them in relation to their children's education and so on," Taragoš related.
"For example, in the Housing First project in the Moravian-Silesian Region, about 130 people applied for housing last year, and we accommodated 27 of them as part of that project and another 10 outside of it. We managed to get jobs for more than half of them," Taragoš estimated.
"Seven children being cared for in institutions were returned to the families whom we got settled. The cost of maintaining a child in institutional care is approximately CZK 25 000 -35 000 [EUR 1 000 - 1 440] per month, which means that our work helped to save the state almost a quarter of a million crowns [EUR 10 275] a month, or more than CZK 2.5 million [EUR 1 million] a year," Taragoš calculated.
In his article, Křeček also mentions former Agency director Martin Šimáček, who has previously described how the excluded localities arose in the Czech Republic during the 1990s, when Romani people were intentionally manipulated into moving to the outskirts of cities. The ombudsman praises Šimáček for "acknowledging the connection" between excluded localities and Romani people.
"Acknowledging the connection between the emergence of excluded localities and the Romani minority, which is a fact even though many of the defenders of human rights in the salons deny it, is a credit to Mr. Šimáček, but it is far from capturing the reality," Křeček has written. "After all, everybody knows those localities were not always 'excluded,' and they did not become these devastated, excluded parts of our lives until the 'activities' of specific individuals."
According to Taragoš, such a statement clearly demonstrates the current ombudsman's lack of expertise. "Mr. Křeček says that it is good that Mr. Šimáček has stated there is a connection between excluded localities and ethnic Roma," he told Romea.cz.
"I must also confirm this, but unfortunately it is because these people have been excluded from society precisely due to their ethnicity," he explained. "Here we see Mr. Křeček's great lack of professionalism, his lack of understanding of this subject."
"I honestly think it's not just a lack of professionalism, though - there's a lot of populism in this, and the saddest thing is his abuse of this topic for his own self-presentation within this society," Taragoš said. "I believe he tries to use such opinions to try and score cheap points."
"Above all, he does not understand this topic and he interprets it, or rather misinterprets it, in the context of his lack of comprehension," the director of Romodrom said. "Yes, those excluded by society and Romani people have a lot in common - it is exactly because they are Romani people that they have been excluded."
According to Křeček, Romani parents are also responsible for segregated schools, although he admits that the same degree of fault goes to non-Romani parents. "Segregated schools are an inseparable part of excluded localities to which non-Romani and Romani parents contribute equally," the ombudsman has written.
"So does elitist contempt for practical schools, which provided and still do provide such children with at least something," the ombudsman has opined. Taragoš says these current statements from the ombudsman are not unique.
"Already last year we responded to one of his attacks together with other organizations in an open letter to the European Commission," he said, adding that the Commission's reply will be published soon. "Due to Mr. Křeček's statements so far, we do not feel sufficiently represented by his position and we will strive for his dismissal," Taragoš told Romea.cz.
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