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UK police officer Petr Torák: I'm still in shock over Brexit

25.6.2016 10:28
Petr Torák, a police officer of Romani origin from the Czech Republic, on 29 October 2015 shortly after he received his Member of the British Empire honor from the UK Home Office. (PHOTO:  Jiří Hošek)
Petr Torák, a police officer of Romani origin from the Czech Republic, on 29 October 2015 shortly after he received his Member of the British Empire honor from the UK Home Office. (PHOTO: Jiří Hošek)

Petr Torák, a Romani émigré from the Czech Republic, is a police officer who is more than successful in Great Britain. Last year he was made a Member of the British Empire for his work.

That high civilian honor was bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II primarily for his community work. "I am very proud of the fact that I am probably one of only a few Czechs to ever receive such an appreciation and certainly the first Romani man to be given such an honor," he told news server Romea.cz last year.

Besides working on ordinary criminal cases, Torák frequently aids his British colleagues in communicating with the Romani community. "It's constant advice and support by telephone. I help people with their cars, housing questions, immigration laws and other matters, it's really service from A to Z, and its not just service for the Romani community, but also for the Czech and Slovak community per se," he has said of his work.

Torák is also the director of the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association (GRTPA), which is a support network for police personnel from those communities. He emigrated with his family from the Czech Republic to the UK in May 1999 after experiencing neo-Nazi attacks.

In the Czech Republic Torák had attended a private legal academy. He had planned to continue his education and had already applied to two colleges when the attacks happened.

One of the colleges had already accepted him and he had completed half of the tests needed for the other, a police academy. The neo-Nazis then beat up his mother and later beat him up as well.

In England he worked in fast food restaurants and did various kinds of manual labor, eventually working his way into the police. Today he works as a police officer in Peterborough, a town 120 kilometers north of London; news server Romea.cz contacted him yesterday.

Q:  What do you say to the results of the referendum?

A:  I must admit I'm still in shock over these results. Up until the last moment I believed British society would decide to remain in the EU. I understand
some of the reasons for leaving, of course, and I also agree with some of them, but from the standpoint of community cohesion and security, I believe Great Britain should remain in the EU.

Q:  What do you believe this will mean for the Romani people who do not yet have British citizenship and who have been living in Britain for less than five years?

A:  Absolutely everybody here will experience the effects of Brexit, but probably those who will be most affected are the people who are not in England just for a better education or better work opportunities, but mainly for the feeling of equality and safety they have here. Many Romani people are now concerned about what will happen next, whether we will all have to go back to our native countries and leave behind all that we have built up here over the years. Most of us who have been in England for more than 10 years have nowhere else to go. We have already lived through one forced migration already and we know how many difficulties and how much stress that introduces into our lives. For more than a week, many people have called me because they are (erroneously) concerned that if they travel away from England they might not be allowed back in. Several people called me this morning and asked me what will happen now. Many Romani people now are deciding whether to move to other EU countries or whether to seek British citizenship.

Q:  Was the campaign hateful in any way towards Czechs, Lithuanians, Poles, Roma, or other immigrants?

A:  I didn't notice any altercastions between the English and other communities here because of Brexit. I also didn't see any elements of hatred between people in Peterborough in general because of it, or among the politicians here. 

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Immigration, EU, Roma, UK



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