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Petr Uhl: Rising aversion to Romani people in Czech Republic is why they are falling further into poverty

Brno, 26.4.2012 20:21, (ROMEA)
Czech Helsinki Committee member Petr Uhl, who was the Czech Republic's first-ever Human Rights Commissioner.

According to the Czech Helsinki Committee (Český helsinský výbor - ČHV), aversion to Romani people is rising among the majority part of society in the Czech Republic. ČHV member Petr Uhl told journalists in Brno today that research and surveys have shown that during the last 10 years, that aversion has risen from 60 % to 75 %. In his view, this climate is contributing toward the decline in Romani people's standards of living even while they are already some of society's poorest people. Uhl also warned that the number of people patronizing the neo-Nazi movement is growing in the country.

When evaluating the situation in the Czech Republic today, Uhl expressed appreciation for the existence of civic initiatives, both pro-Romani and Romani ones, focused on the protection of fundamental human rights. In his view, the discussion of how to aid Romani people and the Romani topic in general has moved from the central governmental level "to the regions, villages and into normal life".

"People are also realizing, thanks to new laws such as the Anti-Discrimination Act, that it is illegal to cause violence, to call for violence, or to cause discrimination," Uhl said. In that context, he recalled last weekend's events in the town of Břeclav, where as many as 2 000 people demonstrated in support of a boy who had been assaulted by three men and lost a kidney as a result. The boy's mother said her son only saw one of the assailants, who was allegedly Romani. The right-wing extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) then convened its own protest in Břeclav. Uhl expressed appreciation for the fact that most of those demonstrating in Břeclav distanced themselves from the party's platform. "They already know what those people are about," he said. However, Uhl also said that today many people feel so free that "they have no inhibitions about disseminating hatred against Romani people, which is a felony."

Human rights experts will be discussing Romani people and their position in the Czech Republic and Europe at an ongoing meeting convened in Brno by the Czech Helsinki Committee and the European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH). In their invitation to the event, organizers state that Romani people constitute the largest European ethnic minority, numbering between 10 and 12 million. Every day they grapple with discrimination, intolerance, poverty, prejudice, and social exclusion. Through Sunday, experts will be discussing three topics: The approach taken by minorities toward their rights, discrimination against Romani people, and violence against Romani people. The final block of the program will touch on the topic of affirming Romani dignity.

ČTK, František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, fk, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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