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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Are the Czech Republic Romanies the most discriminated against minority in the EU

The Czech government has protested against a European survey that in early December said Czech Romanies are a minority that is the most discriminated against in the EU. Michael Kocab, Czech minister in charge of human rights and minorities, told journalists that a number of Romany intellectuals live in the Czech Republic, who are able to distinguish and describe discrimination and report on it abroad. The Czech government is trying to solve the problem openly and transparently, which, however, does not mean that it can admit Czech Romanies being [referred to as] the most discriminated against in the EU, Kocab said. According to Kocab, the survey's results reflect the relatively high legal awareness on the part of Czech Romanies, their higher ability to identify discrimination in society in which they are far better integrated than Romanies in other countries. "In view of this, Czech Romanies have a much bigger chance of full-fledged integration in society, though they show a strong feeling of being discriminated against," Kocab said in a press release. He said Romanies in the Czech Republic have good knowledge of the country's anti-discrimination measures and of the organisations providing help and advice in this area. This corresponds to the developed network of NGOs that focus on fighting discrimination in the Czech Republic, he said. The Romanies are aware of the impacts of the social and economic transformation. "However, they consider them a violation of the egalitarianism applied by the previous communist regime. They are able to orient themselves in their rights and demand their observance," Kocab said. He said an improvement in this area also ensues from the report on Czech Romanies' emigration to Canada that the cabinet discussed today.

The cabinet also approved a manual for Czech embassies concerning the Romany issue. It will serve for diplomats to respond basic questions about the Czech Republic's approach to Romany integration, Kocab said. The study was worked out by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) on the basis of interviews with 23,000 immigrants and ethnic minority members. According to it, 64 percent of Romanies in the Czech Republic were discriminated against in the past 12 months, and 42 percent of Czech Romanies fell victim to crime. The Czech government's office for Romany affairs, however, says the situation is in fact not that alarming. The office director Gabriela Hrabanova told CTK previously that the objective situation of Romanies in the Czech Republic is better than in some other states, mainly in east Europe. Residents of Romany settlements in Slovakia and Romania face far worse living conditions, she said. Hrabanova, too, pointed to the relatively large integration of Czech Romanies with the majority society, "At some places they live in total segregation. As a result, they do not meet with discrimination at all," she said. She said most Czech Romanies are in contact with the majority society, therefore they better realise mutual differences. The FRA has examined minority members' experiences with discrimination in nine areas of everyday life - in seeking jobs and at work, in housing, health care and social services, at schools, in cafes, pubs and night clubs, in shops and in banks. It also looked into wehther minority members fell victim to crime. The FRA found the strongest discrimination in terms of access to education and work, but said there are shortcomings in other areas as well.

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