Czech Roma discriminated by UK authorities, say Law Lords|
In 2001 the UK authorities introduced controversial controls at Prague's
Ruzyne Airport of passengers traveling to Great Britain. Six Roma people,
who were prevented from entering Great Britain, complained to British
courts. Last week the highest appeal court in the UK, the Law Lords, ruled
that the government's immigration rules racially discriminated against
Czech Roma passengers.
In October 2002 the UK High Court rejected a case taken by the European
Roma Rights Centre and Liberty in Great Britain, saying the controls were
"no more or no less objectionable than a visa system".
Then the case went to the Court of Appeal, which said the practice almost
inevitably discriminated against Roma. But, it said, this was justified
because they were more likely to seek asylum than non Roma people.
The Law Lords last week took a different view, saying the controls were in
fact discrimination, and contravened the British Race Relations Act of
Valerie Nicolae from the European Roma Information office in Brussels says
that even though it took a long time, the decision is widely welcome among
Roma civic organizations.
"It took quite a long time. Right now it's been over two yeas, and it
has been rejected a few times before it got to the House of Lords. I think
it's a very important decision and it proves the point we and many other
organizations made that racism was to be found at the core of the British
According to Czech Radio's reporter in the United Kingdom, Milan Kocourek,
the Law Lords decision is not going to have any further consequences for
Czech passengers traveling to the UK. That's because Czechs are now
entitled to free movement across Europe anyway.
"The Home Office spokesman said that the Czechs were short term
respond at the time, at the moment there were no similar operations now
running and the Home Office would decide whether now new guidance was
needed to be issued. The spokesman also said that it was no intention by
the British immigration authorities to be discriminatory in any way
against Roma, they kept emphasizing that it is the case which is in the
past 2001, now the Czech Republic is a member of the European Union,
therefore similar case cannot possibly arise."
But similar cases in legal terms can still arise in the Czech Republic
itself where the Roma population is not quite satisfied with the way they
"For instance Liberty Group also says that they keep getting
complains from the Czech Republic by Roma people about police harassment
etc. In other words similar cases could be - I suppose - raised in the
Czech Republic itself where the case originally started. They were the
people who were complaining from the Czech Republic of course."
On the other hand, Valerie Nicolae says that there are some reasons to be
optimistic regarding minority rights in the Czech Republic.
"Fortunately - I think - the Czech government lately took some good
measures to address the situation of Roma, and I'm quite happy with the
appointment of the new commissioner on Employment and Social Affairs which
is Mr. Spidla, also considering the fact that Spidla nominated in his
cabinet an expert on Roma Jan Jarab. So I think there is positive
development coming from the Czech Republic right now."