The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has said that Czech politicians should take part of the blame for the Romany exodus that has led Canada to re-impose visa requirements on Czech nationals. He said that local politicians had played the Romany card for their own political gain and had worsened already strained relations between the majority population and the Romany minority. He cited, among others, Jiří Čunek, former mayor of Vsetin in north Moravia, and Ivana Řapkova mayor of Chomutov, north Bohemia, as cases in point. Both took a hard line with Romany rent defaulters, moving them to inadequate housing facilities on the town suburbs or confiscating their welfare allowances.
We’ve heard about the diplomatic fallout from Canada’s decision to reintroduce visas for Czechs, but what about the effect it’s having on Czech tourists – 30,000 of whom visit the country each year? Well, it’s inconvenient to say the least; hundreds of Czech travellers are now heading for Vienna – the nearest place they can obtain a Canadian visa at short notice.
The Czech Republic has pinned its hopes on the European Union for a forceful retort to Canada’s imposition of visas on Czech citizens. Prague has already officially lodged its demand that Brussels hits back with across the board visa requirements on Canadians. But the success of that demand looks far from certain.
Czech Roma who have sought asylum in Canada are beginning to return home, the daily Dnes reported on Saturday. The newspaper said that some had overestimated their ability to overcome the language barrier, were unhappy with the hand-outs received from the state and that conditions in hostels had deteriorated with many now full. The Czech Roma association Dženo told the paper that several dozen Roma had returned. The reported return could be a factor in persuading Canada not to re-impose visa requirements on Czech travelling to the country. A final decision on whether to re-impose visas – abolished in 2007 – because of a surge in Roma asylum demands is expected early next week.
For a few weeks in the late summer of 1989, Prague became the scene of a bizarre – and now largely forgotten - refugee crisis. It had all begun in the spring, when Hungary announced its decision to take down the barbed wire on its border with Austria. A growing number of East Germans, desperate at the suffocating lack of reform in their country, took advantage of this new gap in the Iron Curtain as a way of fleeing to the West. But smuggling themselves into Austria was an uncertain business, and before long, they started seeking refuge at the West
The majority of Czechs are for registered same-sex partnerships, but against gay adoption, suggests a poll conducted by the CVVM agency and published on Tuesday. Nearly three quarters of those polled said that they believed homosexual couples should be able to cement their relationship through a civil partnership, while only 27 percent of those questioned said they believed same-sex couples should be able to adopt. When asked whether they agreed with gay marriage, 47 percent of those polled said yes, while 46 percent of respondents were against. According to the poll, just over one half of Czechs believed that they lived in a society which was ‘not very tolerant’ of same-sex relationships.
For Panorama this week we go back to school, visiting a class of 12- and 13-year-olds at the grammar school in the old town of Havlíčkův Brod, about a hundred kilometres south-east of Prague. We are here to find out more about a pioneering teaching project that has been made possible thanks to the enlightened attitude of the local town hall, which gave financial support.
Ottawa could reinstate a visa requirement for Czech visitors due to the
high number of Czech Romanies applying for asylum in Canada, the Czech
foreign ministry said on Wednesday. The Czech foreign minister, Jan
said Canada’s immigration minister, Jason Kenney, had told him a few
ago that Canada was considering measures in reaction to the number of
asylum seekers, including reintroduction of a visa requirement. The Czech
newspaper Lidové noviny reported that Ottawa would reimpose visas from
next Tuesday, though Canada’s embassy in Prague would not confirm
such a decision had been taken.
If the change is introduced, the Czech government could respond by making Canadian diplomats get visas to enter the Czech Republic, the Czech News Agency reported. A blanket visa requirement for all Canadians would contravene a European Union directive.
While 861 Czech Romanies applied for asylum in Canada in the whole of 2008, over 1000 did so in the first three months of this year. Thirty-four of those who applied between January and April were granted asylum. The asylum seekers say they have been the subject of discrimination in the Czech Republic, a view supported by human rights agencies.
In 1997 Canada brought back a visa requirement for Czechs because of the number of Czech Romany asylum applicants. It dropped the condition in 2007.
The Czech media is awash with claims that Canada is on the verge of reintroducing visas for Czech citizens, in reaction to the large numbers of Roma from the Czech Republic seeking asylum there. The speculation led the Czech foreign minister Jan Kohout to call a special press conference on Wednesday at which he confirmed that Canada had informed Prague it intended to take measures, but said no decision had been taken yet on visas.
The American centre in Prague hosted a roundtable discussion on Wednesday on the growing threat of extremism, at a time when far-right groups are holding regular rallies in Czech towns and several Romany families have been attacked by neo-Nazis. The discussion was attended by government ministers, Romani rights activists and also groups that monitor far-right extremism. Klára Kalibová is from the monitoring group Tolerance.
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