VIDEO: Demonstration about closure of Czech city's residential hotels, inhabited mostly by Roma
Several dozen people demonstrated yesterday evening in the Czech town of Ústí nad Labem, where the planned closure of two residential hotels, according to demonstrators, will lead to their impoverished tenants, many of whom are Romani, having to move beyond the city limits. The event was convened by activists collaborating with the tenants of the two facilities slated to close at the end of this month.
Approximately 230 people, 80 of them children, live in the buildings, one in the city center and one in the Střekov neighborhood. ROMEA TV, the first Romani Internet television station in the Czech Republic, broadcast the demonstrations live yesterday.
The demonstrators included tenants who pointed out that they are frequently discriminated against when they look for housing because of their Romani nationality. "The reality is such that you call in response to an advertisement, you give your Romani surname when you introduce yourself - for example Demeter, or Horváth, and the potential landlord hangs up on you. Even if that landlord knows he is breaking the law by doing that, nobody else takes any interest in it, not the authorities, not the police, and landlords do not risk prosecution for doing that," said Miroslav Brož, one of the organizers of the demonstration.
"It is important that the Antidiscrimination Act, which is a component of Czech law that applies today, be enforced on the territory of this city," Brož said. The demonstrators are demanding that the city either buy out the buildings so that their inhabitants can establish a cooperative and take care of the facilities themselves, or that the city aid them with finding standard housing in those same neighborhoods.
"We want these people to be aided effectively," Brož said in his speech. The next demonstration about the issue is convened for next Wednesday in front of City Hall during the city assembly meeting.
The operator of the facilities, Lea Anderlová, announced at the end of May that she would be closing the businesses at the end of June. The owner of both buildings, CPI Byty, previously stated that it does not intend to undertake running the residential hotels itself.
Nonprofit organizations and staffers from the social welfare departments of the municipal departments involved are working with the future evictees. According to the Vice-Mayor of the central municipal department, Karel Karika (PRO!Ústí), they have already managed to find new housing for more than 10 families moving away from the Klíšská Street facility.
"We have managed to find them new housing elsewhere in the city. The apartments are actually nice rentals, some of the people are genuinely surprised that they are getting such a beautiful unit for a decent price," Karika told the Czech News Agency (ČTK).
According to the Vice-Mayor, even the deposits connected with renting a new apartment are not such a problem to arrange. "The Labor Office is also doing amazing work. They found a budget line that makes it possible to give these people money for the deposit," he said.
The central municipal department is also insisting that the city should have bought out the residential hotel on Klíšská Street. Karika said he would like to transform the facility into apartment units for single mothers.
The city has not yet clearly stated whether it has an interest in buying the properties or not. Romana Macová, spokesperson for City Hall, told ČTK that "Buying out that kind of building is a long-term process, not a route to immediately solving this problem. Actually, it is unrealistic to expect that the city could become the owner of that real estate as of 1 July. To arrive at such a decision there must be appraisals, negotiations, an official opinion from the property commission, and political will for that from the city assembly in particular - many steps have to be taken to lead to that result."
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