Czech expatriate Romani community in the UK targeted by social media hoaxes to create demand to leave because of COVID-19
Czech news servers iDNES.cz and Lidovky.cz have reported that thousands of Czech and Slovak citizens have returned to their native countries from Great Britain because of COVID-19. Several hundred Romani people were among them.
The reason for the return was fear that they were more likely to contract the disease in the UK. The news servers report that the return of the Romani community members did not happen en masse or in an uncontrolled way.
In the Czech Republic, the municipalities to which the expatriates have returned are managing the situation and helping to solve any problems that arise on the spot. "A lot of [Romani] people decided to leave Britain because they were afraid of the infection," the Romani activist Petr Torák, who is also an expatriate from the Czech Republic living in the UK, is quoted as saying by the news servers.
According to the head of the Czech Comenius school in Leeds, England, Tomáš Kostečka, "those who are leaving are above all those with no connection to expatriate organizations" of Czechs in the UK. According to him, there are as many as 20 Czech expatriate associations in the country.
Kostečka is quoted as saying the problem with some Roma from the Czech Republic or Slovakia in the UK is that they do not have the right documents and did not apply for the status of a resident, which the British Government now requires after Brexit. In addition, they have lost the work they frequently performed, either illegally or through agencies.
Returnees to the Czech Republic head primarily to live with their own families or relatives and do not have to report their return to local authorities. Concerns that they would bring the disease to the Czech Republic have been dispelled by the numbers of infections reported.
According to Kostečka, COVID-19 is not fluorishing among the Roma in Leeds and there are just currently two confirmed cases. He also alleges that a number of fraudsters are making money off of those moving back to the Czech Republic, offering them overpriced transportation back to their homeland.
Charging as much as CZK 10 000 [EUR 370] per person for the one-way journey is allegedly no exception. It is said that some Vlax Roma are behind these transport offers, who have also allegedly begun to spread alarming videos urging the Roma to leave Britain, falsely claiming the British Government could take away their children and the like.
"They are scaring this group of people and justifying it by saying they must return," Kostečka is quoted as saying. "The paradox is that when they transport the Czech Roma from Britain back to the Czech Republic, they also transport Roma from Slovakia to Britain. They take some away, they bring others in."
The Roma have allegedly been quite ripped off during these journeys - for example, instead of being brought to the destination they paid for, they are abandoned in France. This is confirmed by Torák, who has remained in Britain.
"Somebody recently posted a hoax to social media alleging that the Queen and the Director of the World Health Organization had announced that children would be taken away in Britain because of the coronavirus. Dozens of parents now contact me every day who don't know if they should believe it and who are afraid to go outdoors now. That's why I organized a conference call on Zoom with the head of the police, social workers and the local authority, and together we will be broadcasting online and answering questions from concerned parents," Torák told the iDNES.cz server.
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