Residential hotel tenants petition Czech PM over discrimination against the impoverished
"The poverty caused by the ill-considered amendments to the social laws is unlike any that has ever existed in the modern history of our country," reads a press release sent out by an informal initiative of residential hotel tenants asserting that the situation of the families with children, senior citizens and unemployed occupants of such facilities is so critical it could become a cause of social unrest. The tenants have written a petition to the Czech Prime Minister protesting against a planned amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress.
So far 683 tenants have signed the petition. "Every hour the number of our petitioners grows and they are prepared to warn the Government and the public of the seriousness of the situation through actions that are much more direct," the press release states.
News server Romea.cz publishes a shortened version of the petition in translation below. The full Czech original is available here.
Esteemed Mr Prime Minister,
we, the undersigned citizens of the Czech Republic, hereby express our disagreement with the draft amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress that the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry has submitted to the Government. This amendment changes the conditions of and raises the bar on eligibility for housing benefits for those who have found themselves in need of accommodation and in material distress, and it will only affect citizens living in residential hotels.
The law submitted is therefore establishing yet another circumstance of discrimination and inequality with which the citizens living in this impossible situation will no longer be able to cope. We ask you, Mr Prime Minister, to instruct the Government that you lead to return the law in this form to the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry for revision, as we believe it violates the civil rights guaranteed by the legal order of the Czech Republic and violates the Constitution.
The people living in the residential hotels are those who have lost their previous rental housing or who have never even lived in classic rental housing because their ability to access the labor market has been impaired in a basic way, and because they are very often afflicted by discrimination on the basis of their age, their ethnicity, and their sex. The actual cause of this problem, i.e., their incapacity to defend themselves against discrimination and their poverty, is their insufficient incomes.
Instead of the Government's legislative activity aiming to eliminate discrimination, the Government of which you are Prime Minister is now introducing discrimination through its actions. Instead of so harassing the occupants of socially excluded localities, the state should, through all bodies of the state administration at all levels, be guaranteeing enough job opportunities for these people, especially in the most-afflicted regions, i.e., in Moravia-Silesia and in Ústí.
The proposed law will cause the following:
- A growth in the number of homeless people: Currently the residential hotels represent the only affordable housing option for those socially vulnerable citizens whose financial resources permit them no other alternative.
- Decline of the most impoverished into even greater poverty: The change to the law on aid to those in material distress that occurred in January 2015, i.e., cutting the housing benefit for persons living in the residential hotels by 90 %, means that senior citizens in the residential hotels are absolutely without any money for any average of seven days out of every month, thanks to which they are no longer capable of arranging their regular purchases of those medicines for which they are charged fees; because of the resulting deterioration to their health, the cost of their health care covered by the public health insurance scheme is rising. Families with children are absolutely without money an average of 10 days out of every month. A further reduction to the housing benefits will cause them to fall even further below the poverty line. This approach is endangering the healthy development of the thousands of children living in the residential hotels in an absolutely unprecedented way, even though they are the people who should enjoy the greatest degree of state protection.
- Collapse of social reconciliation in the socially excluded localities and their neighborhoods: Over the last few decades the restrictive policy of the state in the area of social welfare has already resulted in the number of socially excluded localities multiplying in the Czech Republic, and this has led to an increase in the degree of spatial segregation and to both the societal and symbolic exclusion of these people. These actions by the state have given no room for these people to emancipate themselves from the downward spiral of poverty, but have just spun them round and round in it at an accelerated rate. Continuing harassment and persecution by the state will have an absolutely devastating influence on these socially excluded citizens and their children.
- Growth in crime and social pathology: The result of increasing poverty is the devastation of morale, a growth in criminal activity, and an increase in socio-pathological phenomena, all of which directly cost the citizens and the state much more financially than the state has to currently pay in housing benefits.
- Extreme displays of intolerance and radicalization: Poverty causes the people in the residential hotels to be unable to feed either themselves or their children, which can lead to extensive social unrest and destabilize the entire society.
Esteemed Mr Prime Minister, we, the undersigned citizens of the Czech Republic, ask you in the interests of upholding the Constitution, of upholding the Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, of protecting the most socially vulnerable citizens and their children, and last but not least, in the interest of maintaining social reconciliation and preventing extremism in all its forms, to do the following:
- Do not submit the proposed amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress to the cabinet for review;
- Should it transpire that this proposed amendment is discussed by the cabinet, then use all of your authority as Prime Minister to return it to the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry for revision;
- Initiate amendments to the law that will be in accordance with the legal order of the Czech Republic and that will take into consideration the current living situations of those on disability, families with children, the long-term unemployed, senior citizens and single mothers living in residential hotels throughout the entire Czech Republic;
- Through your constant work with various ministers, support the creation of new job opportunities of a permanent nature primarily for socially excluded citizens;
- Push through and enforce another increase to the minimum wage;
- Coordinate cooperation between the central bodies of the state administration and those of the cities and municipalities and all other relevant stakeholders so as to gradually weaken citizens' dependency on the welfare system, by, for example, rigorously enforcing the ban on discrimination in the areas of the housing and labor markets.
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