Continuing discrimination and violence against Roma, domestic violence, failure to deal with cases of human trafficking and corruption are highlighted as black marks against the Czech Republic in the US state department’s annual survey of human rights in the world. Societal discrimination and violence against Roma was a problem last year with human rights organisations attacking the government’s failure to deal with it, the report said. Exploitation of illegal and migrant workers and discrimination against labour unions were also highlighted in the report. Attempts to stamp out abuses in the police and other forces were taken but areas of immunity persisted, it added.
The eyes of the world are on Ukraine where a new political leadership is forming in the aftermath of the bloody revolution that ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich from power. Czech MEP Libor Roucek is part of a European Parliament delegation currently negotiating with the key political players in Kiev. I spoke to Mr. Rouček over the phone on Monday and first enquired about the situation in the city.
Hundreds of Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic held a mass for the victims of the recent killings in their country at the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Sunday. The crowd carried signs reading Stop Yanukovych and heard speeches condemning the actions of his now ousted government. Also on Sunday a concert in support of Ukraine was held on the Prague’s Náměstí Republiky; the event was free but attendees could send financial support by SMS to the NGO People in Need, which is organising aid for the strife-torn state.
The Czech government welcomes the deal reached on Friday between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and the country’s opposition leaders, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said. After days of violent clashes which left more than 70 people dead, the deal paves the ways for forming a new government and an early general election. Mr Sobotka told reporters on Friday that in case of need, the Czech Republic was ready to accept hundreds of refugees from Ukraine and help provide medical care for those injured during the conflict. However, Czech authorities have not registered any increase in the number of people seeking asylum in the country.
Charles University has offered roughly 20 students from Ukraine the chance to complete their studies in Prague, the institution said on Friday. The offer only applies to students who face direct persecution in their country and who could receive the university’s Václav Havel Fellowship, which is for students affected by persecution in totalitarian and authoritative countries. Ukrainian students could start attending courses in Prague immediately, the university said. A similar offer came on Thursday from Palacký University in Olomouc.
Events in Ukraine have repercussions across the wider region; neighbouring countries, like Slovakia, are already preparing for the potential arrival of refugees, and Poland has been heavily involved in the diplomatic effort. The Czech Republic is slightly further removed from the crisis, but the tremours can be felt here too - the country has a large Ukrainian population, many of them migrant workers, and on Thursday evening hundreds of Ukrainians demonstrated on Wenceslas Square. Some Czech organisations - like the NGO People in Need - are getting
Police in the town of Liberec are bracing for possible problems in connection with an ultra-right concert which is to take place at the Rock Pub club in the city centre. The concert by the nationalist group Sons of Bohemia is expected to attract extreme right supporters from around the country. Other clubs in town are closing their doors in protest of the event.
Some 400 Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic rallied in Prague on Sunday in support of anti-government protests in Ukraine. A procession which arrived in Old Town Square in the capital shouted slogans, carried photos of people beaten by the police in Kiev, and prayed. The rally criticized Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovich who they said was waging a war against his own people. An estimated 200,000 people from Ukraine live in the Czech Republic where they account for the largest ethnic minority.
A member of the country’s large Vietnamese community, Mimi Lan Nguyen came to the Czech Republic in the early 1990s while still in her early teens. Today she is a successful fashion designer with a flagship boutique on the capital’s Štěpánská St. The shop is actually on the outside of the grand city centre Lucerna Palace, and it was there that Mimi began introducing me to “her Prague”.
The authorities in Prague 7 have fined an artist over a series of works combining the Czech national flag with that of the Romany people. He says the flags, which appeared on an embankment in the city last summer, were meant to foster debate on tensions between the two communities. However, the local town hall accuses him of defaming a Czech national symbol.