The Czech authorities are expecting the arrival of 16 Burmese refugees from Malaysia who will be granted asylum in the Czech Republic within a state-funded resettlement programme. The families fled to Malaysia after facing severe persecution in their homeland but their future there was uncertain since the country is struggling to deal with thousands of refugees. Last October the Czech government joined countries such as Canada, Denmark and Holland in helping to alleviate the problem, taking in 23 Burmese asylum seekers. The Czech authorities have organized similar projects for expatriates from countries of the former Soviet Union. Last year the Czech Republic took in a group of Cuban refugees.
Members of the far-right Workers’ Party will stand in the upcoming European Parliament elections even if their party is banned by the Supreme Administrative Court, their leader Tomáš Vandas told press on Saturday. Mr Vandas said that if the party was banned, it would quickly form a new entity to run in the elections. The Workers’ Party recently drew the focus of the international media when it organized a series of rallies in Litvínov, northern Bohemia, attacking the town’s Romany population.
Representatives of 15 NGOs have criticized the Czech Republic for its handling of the case of Vietnamese immigrant Le Kim Thanh. Mr Thanh was expelled from the Czech Republic for five years after working for three weeks without a visa while his application was pending. Three other men were also expelled, but they appealed the decision, and their expulsion was cut to three months. Mr Thanh did not manage to lodge an appeal because he was ill at the time. On Friday, some of the country’s most prominent NGOs called on the government to rethink its stance on the case. In an open letter, they said that it was the employer who had made a mistake with the visa, and not Mr Thanh. Education Minister Ondřej Liška said that the authorities had not taken the ‘human element’ of the Vietnamese worker’s case into account. The Czech Foreign Police respond that they have no reason to reassess the decision.
On Thursday evening the young journalist Jan Gebert received an award from the European Commission’s “For Diversity. Against Discrimination” campaign. The Czech national prize is for a piece he wrote for the magazine Reflex about Mongolian factory workers in a small town in Moravia. Though the article was published last year, the subject is topical, with the problems posed by rising unemployment among foreign workers making headlines recently.
Rising unemployment spells bad news for the hundreds of thousands of non-nationals working in the Czech Republic. Things are especially difficult for workers from outside the European Union, who when they lose a job also quickly lose their legal status. Now the Czech authorities are preparing a system under which such workers could be given a flight ticket – and a cash incentive – to return to their countries of origin.
The Czech Republic has been marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which comes on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in occupied Poland. Numerous events have been taking place across the country and in Prague in particular. Dominik Jůn spoke with Zuzana Tlášková of the Jewish Museum in Prague to find out more.
The Czech Roma organisation The Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust has welcomed a commitment by Michael Kocáb to push for the removal of a controversial pig farm at the site of a former concentration camp. The newly-named minister for minorities and human rights made the pledge on Friday. During World War II, more than 1,000 Roma were interned at the Lety u Písku concentration camp in southern Bohemia: 327 people died at the site, while more than 500 were transported to the Auschwitz death camp. Non-governmental organisations have been pushing for years for the removal of the pig farm, which was built in the 1970s, and for the introduction of a memorial at the site.
The minister for minorities and human rights, Micahel Kocáb, has labelled as “completely unacceptable” a march on Saturday by right-wing extremists through Janov - a largely-Roma area in the town of Litvinov, in the north of the Czech Republic. Saturday’s march, organised by the right-wing Workers’ Party, was without incident, but in a statement Mr Kocab compared members’ activities to those of militant SA groups in the Nazis’ rise to power in 1930s Germany. About 30 members of the Workers Party on Saturday marched in so-called “patrols” in Janov, handing out leaflets to local non-Roma residents, asking whether they were satisfied with measures taken by the local town hall. Last year, the extremist party organised a march in the area that led to the worst street violence in the Czech Republic in eight years.
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