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ERRC Calls on Canada to Press Czech Republic on Anti-Romani Discrimination
15-07-2009 - Press release

Responding to the Government of Canada’s announcement that it was re-imposing visa requirements on Czech nationals due to the influx of Czech Roma asylum seekers, the European Roma Rights Centre yesterday called on the Canadian Government to address the root cause of Roma claims, namely persistent discrimination against the Roma minority in the Czech Republic and throughout Europe.

The recent rise in asylum applications by Roma from the Czech Republic correlates to a well-documented rise in neo-Nazi activity throughout the country. Last November, television viewers worldwide watched video footage as 1,000 police officers were deployed to keep order as rampaging neo-Nazis tried to march on the Roma at the Litvinov’s Janov housing estate, setting fire to police vehicles and pelting the police with rocks and bottles resulting in injuries to 17 people. Prosecution of the perpetrators has not yet yielded any result, as is so often the case when crimes are perpetrated against Roma. In subsequent months, extremist political parties continued to drum up pressure against the Romani community in Litvinov and elsewhere in the country.

Anti-Romani violence and vitriol in the Czech Republic have continued unabated in 2009. In April of this year, attackers firebombed the home of a Czech Romani family, causing severe injury to a two-year-old girl, who is still fighting for her life in hospital after suffering third-degree burns over 80% of her body. Violence is not the only problem the Czech Roma face. Although declared illegal in 2007 by the European Court of Human Rights,[1] the Government continues to foster systemic discrimination against Romani children by tracking healthy Romani children into schools intended for children with disabilities.[2] Moreover, the Czech government has yet to acknowledge and remedy the coercive sterilization of Romani women.[3]

In its letter to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the ERRC called on the Canadian Government to 1) acknowledge the Czech Republic’s shortcomings in its treatment of the Roma minority; 2) stop the blanket stigmatization of Roma asylum seekers as false refugees; 3) continue the review of asylum claims on a case-by-case basis; and 4) offer Canadian expertise in helping the Czech Republic build a multiethnic and multicultural society free of extremist violence.

Robert Kushen, Managing Director of ERRC, stated: “The Canadian Government has a laudable record in building a multilingual and multi-ethnic society that respects, protects and promotes human rights. We hope that Canada can assist the Czech Republic in building a similar society so that Roma people will not need to seek protection and a better life elsewhere.”

The full text of the letter is available at: http://www.errc.org/db/04/02/m00000402.pdf

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[1] D.H. and Others v. The Czech Republic.

[2] Romea, Romani pupils attend “special schools” more often than others, 3 July 2009, http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_1262.

[3] “Závěrečné stanovisko veřejného ochránce práv ve věci sterilizací prováděných v rozporu s právem a návrhy opatření k nápravě”, Sp. zn.: 3099/2004/VOP/PM a násl., V Brně dne 23. 12. 2005.

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The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at www.errc.org.



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