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July 17, 2019
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SLUM-LIKE CONDITIONS FOR EVICTED ROMA FAMILIES

Czech republic, 17.3.2008 15:06, (aktualne.cz)

"Nobody came to repair it, I have stopped sending my rent in November. Let a distrainer come here, I don't care; let Cunek inhabit the house," she said. Jirí Cunek was a mayor of Vsetín who decided to have local Roma families evicted. He became the Minister of Regional Development, but he quit after numerous scandals. Currently, his re-appointment to the post is being discussed.

Threatened with distraint

The families Cunek has evicted now face a real threat of distraint. According to the agreement they have signed with the authorities of Vsetín, in case they fail to pay rent once, they would need to pay off the whole sum they owe, therefore ten thousands of euro. Since they cannot pay such a sum, they would inevitably find themselves homeless. A door in the only heated room in the house opens as a small boy with a schoolbag bursts in. After sharpening his pencil with a knife, he begins to write his homework. Since he enjoys attending school, he is done quickly. Adrian has grown up in Vsetín, however now he is living in Vl?ice, a small village in Jesenice, because his family was evicted from their home in Vsetín two years ago. No member of the household sees the place as home, though. On top of that, the family is now broken since all men have left it. "Our daddy is not living with us anymore," explained one of the daughters as she is putting fuel into a stove. "My husband became sick of this all," said Eva Zigová. "Together with his relatives, he moved to Slovakia. He tried to make us go with him, but my family is in Vsetín."

No electricity, no hot water, no toilet

Eva Zigová is living in an unmaintained house with five children all alone. The toilet in the house is out of order, so is the sewage system. There is no hot water, electricity is cut off. In winter, there was no water for two months. The family spent their Christmas in Vsetín. After they come back, they have found one room filled with water from a creek that flows through their garden. Now, they use musty clothes as fuel for the oven. As they have no toilets, they have to go outside. Moreover, the mayor threatened the mother to take her children away because of terrible conditions they are forced to live in. "It was Cunek who got me into this situation. I am paying for this 2,500 CZK (100 euro) to Vsetín every month," complained Zigová. "They cannot ask me to pay this much money for a house in this state, and let them take away my children? I have not been paying them anything since November." "I don't know what to do" Last year, the family was being visited by a social worker. However, this year the municipality hasn't received a grant to pay her. So, Eva Zigová is on her own now. "We have been living ina house of our relatives in Stará Cervená Voda," she said. "But there were just too many people living in the house, so we went back. I don't know whatto do." After her maternity leave has ended, she could not find work. The region of Jeseník they have been evicted to struggles with high rates of unemployment.

Trying their luck in Britain

Even other Roma family that has been evicted from Vsetín is unable to settle down in their new place. Their new house in Stará Cervená Voda is unoccupied for the most part. Some members of the Kandrá? family left for Great Britain, the rest live back in Vsetín," explained Josef Podlaha, the mayor of Stará ?ervená Voda. "I haven't seen them since mid-January," said Podlaha. A Roma family from Vidnava found a refuge in Britain too. "They left after the police said Cunek didn't commit any crime (by evicting them)," explained an activist that deals with Roma-related issues Václav Zástera. "There is one more lawsuit against Cunek to be discussed by the court. They can return after that." Other tenants are now living in the house they have left. However, these new inhabitants decided to stop paying back their loan to Vsetín. "We have been paying 1,800 CZK (72 euro) monthly for the Kandrá? family," explained Eva Horvátová who is now occupying the flat with her husband and six children. "However, my social benefits are reduced since the beginning of the year so I cannot afford to pay the rent anymore." Their house is far from ideal place to live - they have no hot water and the electricity is only provisional.

"Evictions? A mere populist act"

According to Renata Köttnerová, a coordinator for Roma-issues in Olomouc Region, it is apparent that the situation of the families has worsened after their eviction. "Definitely, it hasn't contributed to their stabilization," said Köttnerová. "They are still being attracted by Vsetín, they will never feel home outside the city. One of the reasons why they fell alienated is they have moved here involuntarily." The mayor of Stará cervená Voda, a place one of the families has been moved to, is equally skeptical. "They have been used to living in the city for decades, they are not able to live in the countryside," said mayor Podlaha. "They are visiting their relatives in Vsetín frequently as they struggle or maintain their family ties." According to the mayor, the eviction was nothing else than an act of mere populism that hasn't brought any effect. "I understand such a hardline attitude as a warning for the rest of their community," said Podlaha. "According to me, Vsetín above all wanted to tell them they are going to meet the same end as these families if they won't behave."

Requests for payments

However, the town hall of Vsetín is satisfied with the result and doesn't see any failure on their side. "These families should have been living on the street for a long time," said a spokeswoman Eva Stejskalová. "We have accommodated their needs." Now, Vsetín is preparing its next step. The town hall has sent requests for payments to all families that are not paying rent anymore. "If they don't pay, we will be assertive," said Stejskalová. "We will claim our money by law, or possibly we would pursue a distraint. We would repudiate agreements rigorously and sell the houses."

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