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June 26, 2022



Tomáš Ščuka: Representatives of Czech Republic's second-largest city say Romani women from Ukraine here are not refugees and they will not aid them

11.6.2022 19:40
Tomáš Ščuka, June 2022. (PHOTO: Jarmila Balážová)
Tomáš Ščuka, June 2022. (PHOTO: Jarmila Balážová)

Representatives of Brno City Hall refuse to see the children and women of Romani origin who have been forced into homelessness in the Czech Republic as actual refugees from Russia's war on Ukraine, seeing them instead as just alleged "abusers" of social benefits and the welfare system. Tomáš Ščuka, a volunteer civil society member of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, made those observations in an interview for ROMEA TV. 

Together with volunteers Jiří Daniel and Petr Erin Kováč, Ščuka got a meeting with Brno's Vice-Mayor, Robert Kerndl, at the beginning of May to advise the city on how to begin addressing the disastrous situation of the Romani refugees living around the railway station. "No agreement at that meeting could ever have been negotiated, because the city government does not look at the Roma from Ukraine as war refugees," Ščuka told ROMEA TV.

"The city claims the Roma are abusing the system, that they do not speak Russian or Ukrainian, and that they are Hungarians," Ščuka said. According to him, no data has ever been presented to substantiate the accusation.

"If you go into negotiations with such an obstacle, it means there is no will to establish collaboration as equals," Ščuka said, adding that the city has been doing its best to offload its responsibility for helping the refugees of Romani origin from Ukraine onto local nonprofit organizations. "We refused that, though, because primary responsibility rests with the state and indirectly with the municipality."

"Asylum policy and its burdens cannot be shouldered by nonprofits," Ščuka told ROMEA TV. He said even some local Romani residents are being influenced by the rhetoric that appears on social media or comes from city representatives and assume the claims are true that the Roma from Ukraine are just coming to the Czech Republic for benefits. 

"We are trying to raise awareness in our own community, we tell them that these are people who quite frequently came here with just two plastic bags and have no place to live. They might want to recall how the rest of us Romani people came here after the [1989] Revolution from eastern Slovakia, that it was also not easy for us," Ščuka said.

The children and women of Romani origin who have fled Russia's war on Ukraine were relocated by the City of Brno one week ago from the railway station, where they had lived for weeks, to a plot of land at the corner of Benešov and Koliště Streets where they are now living in conditions being criticized as disastrous by independent civic initiatives and nonprofit organizations. After engineering the relocation, the city fenced off the outdoor space in front of the railway station where the Romani refugees had originally been sleeping on the ground.

Jarmila Balážová, Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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