Roma ghettos - hundreds, not dozens?|
Could the number of Roma ghettos in the Czech Republic be much higher than
official government estimates? That is the preliminary result of a new
study, commissioned by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. It suggests
there are over 300 Romany ghettos - including districts, streets and even
individual apartment buildings. That contrasts greatly with the findings
of the government's Council for Roma Affairs: it says there are at most
only a few dozen ghettos.
The man behind the new report is sociologist Ivan Gabal:
"It was decided last year to draw up a very detailed description and
study of all Roma localities that are potentially threatened with social
exclusion. The research project was launched in late October and we are
supposed to deliver its results this June. This will help the Czech
government draft its proposal to the European Commission on the use of
money from the European Social Fund for the integration of Roma, who have
been isolated from the rest of society.
"This society [Czech society] is really in a long-term transition
period - labour market, the restructuring of heavy industry, the new
phenomenon of unemployment, and so on. In this whole context of enormous
social change, the Roma minority has found itself among those who really
are downwardly mobile in terms of the labour market, living conditions,
housing conditions, and so on and all these conditions can bring people
into certain localities, where they can really live in social exclusion
and develop social exclusion into a sort of lifestyle."
From the research that you have done so far, what would you say has been
the most common cause of this poverty that you have seen?
"It's too early to say. However, and I'm speaking hypothetically, we
see the effects of several important factors. One factor is long-term
unemployment and the lack of performance on the labour market for several
reasons. The other factor is the process of the restructuring of housing
ownership, the privatisation of houses. And the last, but not least,
factor is a certain tendency of city halls to pressure them into either
doing something with themselves or leaving."
Do you think this country has the means to provide all the different
educational programmes and the various projects that are needed?
"We will have knowledge; we will have the financial resources. We
have seen quite clearly that in those localities, where the services of
street workers from the People in Need organisation are present, the
situation seems to have stabilised at least. We are also talking with
other NGOs and organisations and we will see how far the new government
after the next elections [June 3,4] will be able to act.
"I can see two different directions in which the efforts should go.
One is to at least give a chance to those families who wish to leave
socially excluded communities and provide their children with better
chances and opportunities. The other is to handle and tackle the situation
of those who are really satisfied with their current social exclusion and
see some normality in the way of life that they live."