The city of Chomutov in North Bohemia is under fire over a controversial new method of reclaiming debts owed by low-income families – sending bailiffs to recover the money as soon as they receive it as social benefits. Most of the families are from the Romany or gypsy minority, and the method has ignited a new row over the integration of the Roma into Czech society.
The minister for human rights and minorities, Michael Kocáb, visited one
of the country’s largest Romany ghettos in Janov on Tuesday, describing
the situation as “dramatic”. Mr Kocáb said however he was pleased with
the lively debate between the local authorities, human rights groups and
Romany NGOs. The local mayor gave Mr Kocáb keys to an apartment in the
Janov housing estate so that the government could set up an office in the
Janov, part of the northern Bohemian town of Litvínov, is one of the Czech Republic’s largest Romany ghettos. In November last year, it became a target of far-right activists who intended to stage a march through the area; the attempt ended in a clash with riot police.
Around 40 supporters of the small far-right Workers’ Party gathered in
the town of Postoloprty, northern Bohemia, on Saturday in order to deal
with alleged Romany crime. The party leadership said a number of local
citizens asked them to help stop petty crime and breaches of public order
attributed to the town’s Romany minority. The far-right activists spent
some two hours in the town, talking to locals and distributing leaflets. No
disturbances were reported. The Workers’ Party originally planned to
stage a march through the town but it was banned by local authorities.
The government is seeking the banning of the Worker’s Party following attacks on a Romany community last November. The request is now being reviewed by the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Supreme Administrative Court on Wednesday adjourned proceedings on the abolition of the ultra-right Workers’ Party until March 4th, when it is expected to pass a verdict. The case has come to court at the instigation of the Interior Ministry which is seeking to get the party outlawed on the grounds that its behaviour and statutes are in violation of Czech law. The Workers’ Party’s has called for zero tolerance towards the post-revolution political system and set up an armed guard to patrol Romany inhabited areas in the north Bohemian town of Litvínov. The party has organized numerous rallies and marches in Romany inhabited areas which frequently end in violent street clashes with the police.
A march planned by far-right extremists in Plzeň this Saturday has been outlawed by the local council. This is the second time in a month that neo-Nazis have planned to march in the West Bohemian town, and had their protest banned. A statement released by the municipality said that the march was outlawed because it may incite hatred and intolerance. Neo-Nazis were planning to march in the vicinity of the town’s synagogue.
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.
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.
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.
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