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Do Czech ghettos face unrest like those in England?

Prague, 13.8.2011 16:57, (ROMEA)

News server iDNES.cz reports that while some experts or interested parties believe violence similar to that now plaguing towns in England could occur in the Czech Republic, others do not see the situation as so dire. "Something similar might come to the Czech Republic. The situation here is one of concern, fear, and tension. It's just a question of time before it explodes," says Romani activist Ivan Veselý of the Dženo association. In his opinion, such violence could be sparked either by the impact of government reforms or by a racially motivated attack.

Jitka Gjuričová, director of the Crime Prevention Department at the Czech Interior Ministry, also does not rule out the possibility of unrest. "If the state does not develop a really massive intervention to get people out of socially excluded localities and give them the chance to join ordinary society, then it could happen," she said.

Sociologist Ivan Gabal, who led the team of researchers that mapped the ghettos five years ago, warns that social exclusion in the Czech Republic is intensifying and being transferred from generation to generation. If the state were to reduce the social safety net too severely, it could exacerbate the situation. However, in his view unrest is difficult to predict.

Marie Gailová, director of the Romodrom association, which helps people in the ghettos, considers welfare reductions a potential detonator of violence. "I don't believe such events would be large-scale here, but once the women aren't able to feed their families, it could happen. Once people are backed into a corner with nothing, they are thrown into aggression and depression. Naturally it's their own fault as well, but they need help," she said.

Gailová considers it an enormous problem that a generation is growing up now in excluded localities who do not know what it is like to be employed. "Especially in the large ghettos in northern Bohemia and Moravia we are seeing the first generation of boys and girls who have grown up in an environment where they have never seen anyone hold a job," Gabal agrees. In his view, politicians have turned their backs on these problems.

On the other hand, Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková believes the British scenario will not unfold in this country soon, or if it did, definitely not to the same extent. "Nevertheless, it is unfortunately true that many of the preconditions for violence which were met in Britain also obtain in some Czech socially excluded localities," she said.

The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities, which Šimůnková is responsible for, is helping people in 26 impoverished neighborhoods throughout the country with education, employment and housing. However, the Commissioner warns that problems that have accumulated over decades cannot be resolved overnight.

Jan Černý, director of People in Need's social integration programs, does not presume violence will occur. "All it takes is a few excesses - a few bottles fly and the hive starts to buzz - but I don't believe it would grow to the extent that the bees would fly out to sting someone," he said. However, he did say the Romani minority is connected through a strong feeling of mutual solidarity and that members of the community are very sensitive to any injustices, even if they happen at the other end of the country.

Gwendolyn Albert, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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