František Václavek is a homeless man in the Czech Republic who will be spending this Christmas, as many before it, in a shelter. It needn’t have been the case. Four years ago, Václavek won 30 million crowns with a single lottery ticket. But he was wheedled out of it by a couple who used the winnings to buy a luxury home in Prague. A court later sent them to prison but Václavek is still waiting for what is rightfully his.
Around 300 people gathered outside the Office of the Government on Thursday, calling for the Czech Republic to accept Syrian children and their families fleeing the civil war in their country. A similar demonstration was also held in Brno. Western countries have pledged to accept 100,000 refugees from war-stricken Syria, but the Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec recently said the Czech Republic was not ready for an influx of thousands of refugees due to security and technical reasons and would not accept any binding EU quota.
If extreme cold strikes the Czech capital this winter, Prague’s City Hall could ask the transit authority Dopravní podnik, to allow those with nowhere to go to spend the night in entrance vestibules in the city’s metro, news website aktualne.cz reports. Irena Ropková, the city councilor overseeing social issues, stressed the situation as a worst-case scenario. Extreme cold has hit the capital before, putting the homeless at risk of death from exposure. The city councilor said alternatively heated tents, capable of temporarily housing up to 200 people, could be used.
Europe has a moral duty to accept refugees from the Middle East and Africa despite the possible risks involved, Czech priest and theologian Tomáš Halík said in a debate on Czech Television on Sunday. Mr. Halík said the Czech Republic should at least admit injured Syrian children for treatment as a symbolic gesture. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said in Brussels a week ago that the Czech Republic was not ready to take in thousands of Syrian refugees for security and technical reasons and that it would not agree with the possible introduction of obligatory quotas for their acceptance by the EU member states. He did not rule out that the country could take in a small number of refugees, for instance Syrian children in need of medical treatment.
The Social Democratic Party leadership has scrapped one of the party’s local branches over cooperation with extremists. The party’s executive leadership on Saturday voted to abolish the party’s local branch in Duchcov, north Bohemia in reaction to the fact that following local elections in October it formed a coalition with the ultra-right Workers Party of Social Justice. Social Democrat leader and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the party branch had been scrapped for acting at variance with the party’s policy program and its values. Mr. Sobotka said the Social Democrats were opposed to forming a coalition on any level with parties of a racist and fascist character such as the Workers Party of Social Justice.
The Czech government sometimes struggles to adopt measures aimed at protecting human rights in the country, Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier told reporters on Wednesday, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day. The Czech Republic faces EU sanctions over failing to integrate Romany children into mainstream schools; Mr Dienstbier said the situation should improve after existing education legislation is amended. The government has also rejected plans to introduce legislation mandating female quota in corporate boardrooms.
The Czech government remains opposed to EU efforts to impose gender quotas for the boards of state-owned and listed companies across the EU. A vote in the cabinet on Monday went against proposed draft legislation which would ensure that by 2020 four out of every ten non-executive directorships of listed companies are filled by women.
At the weekend, the interior minister mooted a plan for the Czech Republic to accept up to 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war in their country. Most consider helping refugees a moral responsibility, but the country says it has neither the capacity nor the finances necessary. Instead, the Czech Republic made clear it would prefer to help on the ground or by continuing to provide material aid.
The Czech government is against binding quotas for the acceptance of Syrian refugees, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said following a meeting of the cabinet on Monday. Minister Chovanec said the Czech Republic was not prepared for an influx of thousands of refugees and he would present this stand at a meeting of EU interior ministers on Friday. He said that to his knowledge, several other EU countries would likewise make a stand against binding quotas. In response to a UN appeal, 15 countries around the world have agreed to set up special quotas for fugitives fleeing Syria’s civil war. More than two million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries since the start of the conflict, and another million, still in the country, have reportedly been displaced.
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