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Roma plight in Central Europe worsens
Radio Prague, August 8th - Living conditions for ethnic Roma, or Gypsies, in Central Europe, including the Czech Republic, have worsened lately - at least according to the French news agency AFP. Its Vienna bureau on Thursday quoted the international organisation Human Rights Watch as saying that Roma people are being ostracised and have little chance to enter Western Europe legally.

The agency reports that up to 80 percent of Roma are jobless in the poorest regions of the Czech Republic. Romanies hold it against Czech businesses that they prevent employing immigrants from Eastern Europe, especially from Ukraine, to recruiting labour force from among the Czech Roma community.

Our correspondent says the AFP report in this particular point seems to be based on the claims of a Roma activist who complained earlier this week that this is one of the factors behind the recurrent waves of Roma asylum seekers in Britain and elsewhere. Radio Prague mentioned this isolated claim in its Current Affairs programme on Tuesday, when we had a counter-comment from another activist.

The AFP went on to say that in the eastern parts of the neighbouring Slovakia, where Roma account for 10 percent of the population, most Romanies depend on family allowances and other government benefits. Last year, more than two thousand Roma attempted to emigrate. But Finland and Norway have recently re-imposed the visa requirement on Slovak citizens, in emulation of the example, set earlier by Britain, Canada and Ireland.

As for Hungary, which is home to half a million Roma, the report says more than half of the young generation is unemployed. Few Roma children in Hungary finish elementary school and only one percent of them receives further education.

Poland' Roma leaders report a measurable improvement of the situation of their community. They run small businesses, such as petrol stations and other small holdings.

Human Rights Watch further describes the poor living conditions of Roma in Romania, Slovenia, Bulgaria and other countries. It points a warning finger at the situation of Roma in Kosovo, where they are being attacked by ethnic Albanians. They are being accused of aiding and abetting the atrocities committed by the Serbs.

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