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February 18, 2020
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Wall separating Czech Romanies from locals exhibited in UN

New York, 30.1.2007 18:31, (CTK)

The photos of the wall in Maticni street in Usti nad Labem, North Bohemia, built to separate the local residents from the Romanies by the local town hall and following protests torn down in 1999, is to document the present situation of Romanies in Europe at the U.N. headquarters in New York from today.

The exhibition held on the occasion of the international Holocaust Remembrance Day is part of a broader exhibition on the Holocaust of European Romanies.

European Romanies want the United Nations to establish the post of a special representative for Romany questions. The new office is to highlight the violation of their rights and seek practical measures with a view to improving the protection of this ethnic minority.

Cenek Ruzicka from the Czech Committee for the Compensation to Romany Holocaust Victims said that the Czech government "does not have any mechanism efficiently preventing social and cultural exclusion of Romanies at the local."

Representative of Slovak Romanies Ladislav Richter praised the government of Prime Minister Robert Fico as it was trying to resolve the Romany problem.

Richter pointed to the existence of over 630 Romany ramshackle settlements without any basic infrastructure, drinking water or electricity.

There is almost 100-percent unemployment among adult Romanies and the progress in the education of Romany children is slow in coming, Richter said.

Richter said that the previous conservative cabinet of Mikulas Dzurinda had worsened the situation of Romanies. There was also the problem that the Romany issue had been dealt with by a party of another ethnic minority, ethnic Hungarians, he added.

Romanies most need education, their representatives said in unison.

"The institutions as the United Nations and the European Parliament should tell the governments that education was the core of Romanies' plight. They should force the countries to pay more attention to the education of Romany children," Ruzicka told CTK.

"Romanies, too, must reconsider their way of life and accept the values of the majority society," Richter said.

Pressure on governments should be one of the main tasks of the proposed U.N. office for Romanies, Ruzicka said.

The politicians who deal with the Romany issue "lose voters," he added.

"We need these impressive institutions to help, to make the government decide more radically and more often on Romany problems, naturally in cooperation with Romany organisations," Ruzicka said.

Czech ambassador to the United Nations Martin Palous said he agreed with the view that Romanies should be more visible on the international scene.

"If the proposed office benefits this, there will be no reason to prevent its establishment," Palous told CTK.

However, there is the question of whether the Romany problem is unique and whether there are other groups in the world deserving similar attention, he added.

"Perhaps this is an issue for human rights institutions," Palous said.

Authorities of the Usti nad Labem Nestemice district moved rent-defaulters to communal flats in Maticni street in the middle of the 1990s. The residents of the local private houses complained about their conduct and the authorities had a concrete wall built there to separate communal flats from private houses.

Czech and foreign human rights advocates viewed the wall as an expression of racism because communal flats are mostly occupied by Romanies and demanded its demolition.

However, the wall was only demolished after the government allotted ten million crowns to improve co-existence in the locality. The authorities paid off houses in the direct vicinity of communal flats spending one-third of the money earmarked by the government. Their residents then left them.

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