The government’s agency for social inclusion on Wednesday presented the Rusnok cabinet with a grim report on the situation of the Romany minority, in which it claims that the problems in housing have deteriorated in an alarming way and little progress has been made in other areas. Coincidentally, on the same day, the Senate rejected a proposal by the EC on how to address these issues successfully. I asked the head of the government’s agency for social inclusion Martin Šimácek to outline the main areas of concern.
“The biggest problem is in the housing situation. There are some 60 thousand people now living in lodging houses, which we see as a huge problem. These facilities are really segregated and not offer the possibility of integration. That is the first key problem, another big problem is with employment. This particularly concerns young people who are unable to find work and there is also the problem of education – a third of the Roma children are not able to study in mainstream schools with other children of their age.”
They are in special schools?
“In special schools – also called practical schools (schools for children with light mental disabilities).”
So to sum it up –the situation in the sphere of education has not improved, neither has the employment situation improved and the housing situation has actually deteriorated –is that right?
“That’s right. We can see that especially in the northern regions of the country there are more socially excluded localities, more lodging houses. There are now 20 -25 percent more excluded localities than we had in 2006.”
More slums with a majority population of Romany inhabitants...why is that? The government keeps saying it is addressing the issue – so what is happening?
“The crucial point is the economic situation and also migration to the poorer regions, to places near the border where unemployment is higher and the possibility to find employment is much lower. Those are the main reasons for the increase in slums.”
The Senate on Wednesday rejected a European Commission proposal for special measures to be taken to improve the situation of the Roma –to ensure equal access to employment, education and so on. Has that come as a disappointment to you?
“We are disappointed, yes, because the EC recommendations are targeted towards those three problem areas –education, employment and housing. And I have to say that in my view the European Commission supports Czech efforts in these areas very much and the recommendations are –let us say –supportive of our policies. So I would much prefer if our senators were able to see things in this light, but they rejected the recommendations and we have to accept that.”
Why do you think they rejected them? Was it just because of the proposed quotas?
“I think that some of them have their own personal opinions and are not comfortable with such documents and recommendations. So personal opinions are an important factor here, and the debate in the Senate was about their personal opinions on the situation with the Roma minority, not about the recommendations made. I am not sure if some of them were really able to think about the content of those recommendations in the context of the situation in the Czech Republic.”
“That can be one of the reasons, but I am not able to say.”
So now you expect the government to take measures to resolve the situation?
“I think so. We have strategic documents which are very close to the recommendations of the EC and lots of government measures are targeting very similar things to those in the recommendations, so it is a bit of a paradox that we are targeting those problems but the senators were not able to accept the recommendations of the EC. “