Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has called on the Czech government to crack down on unscrupulous operators believed to be behind a massive surge in the number of refugee claimants arriving at Canadian airports. The increase, believed to emanate from the Czech Republic’s Roma community, began in late 2007 when Canada lifted the visa requirement for Czech visitors. In 2008, there were 853 Czech nationals seeking Canadian protection from alleged persecution at home, a staggering close to 1,000 per cent increase on the previous year.
Canada has expressed concern about rising numbers of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, most of them believed to members of the Roma or gypsy minority. There’s recently been a huge jump in asylum applications - in fact last year there were more refugees from the Czech Republic than Iraq or Afghanistan. So are the claims justified, and what is Canada planning to do about it?
A court in Ustí nad Labem has overturned a city ban on a planned neo-Nazi march through the centre of town. The march has been scheduled for Saturday April 18th, two days ahead of the 120th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth, and is expected to be attended by several hundred extremists from the Czech Republic and neigbouring states. Police will be out in force for the event, with re-enforcements expected from other regions. Locals have been asked to avoid problem areas so as not to get caught up in potential street fights.
A new report on poverty and gender equality in the Czech Republic for 2008, put out by the international network Social Watch, has criticised the country for discriminating against women on the labour market. The report also highlights issues concerning the country’s Romany minority as well as the situation of the poor. The editor of the report, Tomáš Tožička, explains which of these groups is facing the biggest difficulties.
The police is gearing up for a planned neo-Nazi march in the town of Ustí nad Labem on April 18th, just two days ahead of the 120th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth. The head of the north Bohemian police force Jiří Vorálek said several hundred neo-Nazis were expected to attend predominantly from the Czech Republic and neighbouring Germany. Police reinforcements are being brought in from around the country and the city’s inhabitants have been asked to stay away from problem areas so as not to get caught up in potential street violence.
In 2007, the Czech Republic was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for the way its education system treated the country’s Romany minority. The court found that Roma children were frequently discriminated against and sent to schools for the disabled, when they did not show signs of learning difficulties. On International Roma Day this Wednesday, the Czech Education Ministry released the results of two studies it commissioned to determine how Roma children are faring in the country’s schools now. I spoke to Education Minister
In related news, a Romany NGO called Gypsy Radical has begun monitoring neo-Nazi activities aimed against the Czech Republic’s Romany minority. According to Monday’s press release, the association’s goals also include getting the Romany community to act non-violently against neo-Nazis. On their website, Gypsy Radical published a review of neo-Nazi events that took place in the northern town of Litvínov in the last four months; the activists said policing of these neo-Nazi activities cost Czech tax-payers more than 10 million crowns, or more than 500,000 US dollars.
Czech police broke up a neo-Nazi concert in the city of Plzeň, western Bohemia, in the early hours of Sunday after one of the performers played a song with racist lyrics. About 100 riot police intervened and stopped the performance by three foreign and one Czech band attended by some 150 far-right sympathizers. No one was wounded in the incident while seven persons were detained on suspicions of inciting racial and ethnic hatred.
The Czech daily Lidové Noviny released details on Monday which fill out the circumstances surrounding a Vietnamese man’s death after he was detained by Brno police. The new information released by the paper points to him being the victim of a savage attack after drawing on witness statements and the initial findings of the state prosecutor.
The Czech ultra right-wing Nationalist Party has held a demonstration to remember the start of the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by German troops 70 years ago. On March 15th, 1939 Nazi leader Adolf Hitler proclaimed the country a protectorate. Around twenty members of the Nationalist Party gathered in Prague on Sunday, carrying placards and Czech flags. The event was monitored by police but ended without incident.
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