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Czech Republic: Survey of Roma finds they do not view refugees as a threat

22.10.2015 8:16
Refugees on the Greek island of Kos, 2015. (PHOTO:  bau)
Refugees on the Greek island of Kos, 2015. (PHOTO: bau)

At a time when a humanitarian crisis is impending at several European border crossings simultaneously and demonstrations both against migration and for receiving migrants have been held several times in one month in the Czech Republic, news server Romea.cz has decided to survey Romani people for their opinions on the topic of refugees. Bear in mind that this is just a narrow sample of Romani representatives and our first such report, which has more of an illustrative character than being of any compelling predictive value. We are convinced that it makes sense to familiarize our readers with the perspective of at least a few Romani individuals, as the viewpoint of these minority members on this issue usually remains hidden from view to the broader public due to a lack of relevant sociological research.

Romea.cz is planning to further develop this topic through calls and surveys on our Facebook profile. We would like to ask Romani people who are interested in expressing their views on this issue to post responses here.

Our respondents gave the following answers to these questions:  DO YOU SEE REFUGEES AS A POSSIBLE THREAT TO EUROPEAN SOCIETY? Do you perceive the current approach of the Czech Government to this situation as adequate?

Iveta Kokyová, author

When I look at this purely from the human point of view, i.e., from the perspective of aiding suffering people, I don't perceive this as a threat. If I were to look at it from the demographic, economic, financial or religious viewpoints, then there are some exclamation marks that arise, some threats, but our humanity should win out.

Roman Michalčík, actor

Whoever these refugees are, they are people fleeing war. I don't perceive them as a threat, but as people who need aid.

Lukáš Kotlár, journalist

European society is afraid. That is the main reason the refugees are considered a threat. There is no concrete plan for addressing this, I consider all of the steps taken so far to be just very serious improvisations. My wish is that this wave of arriving refugees might have the least negative impact possible on European society - I am speaking from the position of a person who is being "massaged" by the media, and I believe a big challenge is now beginning for the European continent. I love challenges and therefore I am curious to see how European society deals with this.  

Patrik Grundza, makeup artist, mentor to the LGBT community

I do not perceive them in a negative way. In my opinion, what is very dangerous for Central Europe is our approach to this problem. I really liked the commentary by Ms Magda Vášáryová on this topic.

Radek Grundza, chef

Naturally I do not see refugees as a threat. Rather, I see the possible threat as being the legislation that exists within the framework of the European Union and the various states that belong to it, meaning that each state has laws to cover this problem, and when situations like this arise, each state should be prepared and take action on. Here in our country, unfortunately, we have been asleep at the wheel, but I don't think this is a lost cause as long as the EU states prove able to fulfill their own laws on refugees.

Pavel Botoš, chair, Halifax Roma Group

I asked my colleagues in Great Britain this question a couple of weeks ago, but it was phrased differently:  "Do you believe that Europe, and especially the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are dangerous for refugees? If so, do you believe it is dangerous for you?" I will not publish my colleagues' answers here, but for myself the answer is:  Yes, I am convinced that the Czech Republic and Slovakia are dangerous for refugees, and also for the rest of us. The refugees are just attempting to save their lives and those of their families. I personally consider myself a refugee too, because I fled growing extremism in the Czech Republic, but my story of course cannot be compared in the slightest with the situation of asylum-seekers from a war-torn country, nor can it be compared with how the people here accepted us and behaved toward us when my family and I made it to Great Britain. The opportunities they have offered us here are endless. They have not deprived us of our dignity, our free decision-making, or our liberty. I believe some European countries will soon reap the reward of a big embarrassment that will make itself known once this so-called refugee crisis is over - the Czech Republic and Slovakia are going down in history as countries that lack real human values. Many citizens and politicians understandably object that they are concerned that fighters from the so-called Islamic State and other terrorists will get into these countries, but what are the secret services and other security forces here for?! If the security forces meet their obligations, security will not be any worse in our countries than it was before. Let's realize that the Czech Republic is just a transit country for the vast majority of asylum-seekers. Despite this fact, they are received in an undignified way and automatically considered criminals. I am not an economics expert, but as a lay person I am convinced that refugees could even be beneficial to the economy. Does the anti-immigrant opposition believe all asylum-seekers are uneducated?

Eugen Jan Kondáš, unemployed

If you want to know my opinion about refugees, all I can say is that we should aid them within the realm of possibility. This is our obligation, that's how I feel.

Miroslav Kováč, chair of the Equal Opportunities Party (SRP)

Under no circumstances do I consider refugees a threat that European society cannot manage to cope with. Our societies are so advanced that they can manage to discover and eliminate potential threats, as has been confirmed several times both in the Czech Republic and in other European countries, and refugees are far from the only possible threat. Several million refugees already live in the EU today, by the way. Anyone of an extremist mindset can pose a threat, even a neighbor whom we believe to be "decent". As far as the influx of immigrants goes, more than half of them will fall through the cracks of established asylum policy, so I don't see this as dramatic. Rather, I am concerned about the growth of extremist, nationalist, racist populism, of the xenophobic positions that are becoming socially acceptable in EU countries thanks to politicians. The "decent" people are once again staying silent about this.

Miroslav Mário Rusenko, adviser to the chair of the Romani Democratic Party (RDS)

I would divide this into three categories. There are people who had to leave the country of their birth fleeing aggressors - their lives are at risk because of the threat of bloodshed within the framework of an ethnic and religious genocide, they are afflicted by wartime conflict and are fleeing to save their lives. For these people it is clear that they should be temporarily provided with aid in the form of asylum in a place where they will feel safe and where they will be treated in such a way as to receive everything they need for their lives. It is necessary to take a humane approach of solidarity primarily toward families with children, who must be protected from the threat of some the organized groups that promote hatred, racist attitudes, violence and xenophobia and might take matters to an extreme. This category certainly does not pose a potential threat to European society, the threat, rather, is posed by that part of our society that espouses hatred and Nazism and promotes ideologies that might spark war. In my opinion, Romani people usually condemn Nazism, the terror of war, violence and a xenophobic attitude. Another category is that of economic migrants, most of whom come from a state in crisis and poverty and are attempting to get somewhere where the laws and social welfare system are generous. This second category does not pose, in my opinion, a social threat as long as these people uphold the laws of the land. A third category is comprised of refugees who are directed and organized by aggressors and are being sent to the EU states to attack from within. These are well-trained intelligence agents and spies, fanatical fighters who show no mercy and whose aim is just to conquer the European states at any cost. That category poses a potential threat to European society and using all of the means of the EU, greater security measures should be arranged to deal with them.

Emilia Verona Horáčková, social worker

I don't see a threat, I see children, families and mothers who want to live normal lives, in safety, and who are risking their own lives and the lives of their children as they flee a country at war. Even as one thinks about this, others are taking action to spark aversion, fear, and hatred of these people. In any event, these people are already here. Are we supposed to send them back? Lock them up? Destroy them? There is even a discussion going on here about arming ourselves... I don't understand where such strong hatred has come from, such repulsive arguments and counter-pressure. I'm not saying that problems might not arise due to cultural differences and language barriers, but I don't believe that we are in danger. I am a believer and I know there is only one God and that the Islamic faith existed in the beginning and the other faiths came later... I am convinced that these people can enliven and enrich our lives, everyone is responsible for their own actions and it's only once we get to know a person that we can say whether that person is bad or good. Being humane and receiving them cannot help but have a positive effect.     

Adéla Gálová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Anketa, Migrace, Osobnosti, refugee



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