Government adopts strategy on fighting Romany exclusion|
Amidst social and ethnic unrest in parts of the country caused by growing
tension between the majority population and Romanies, the Czech government
on Wednesday adopted a strategy to combat the social exclusion of the
Romany minority. Over the next four years, the government plans to spend up
to 15 billion crowns on a series of measures ranging from fighting crime to
improving the education of Romany children.
The document, adopted by the Czech centre-right government on Wednesday, is
the first comprehensive strategy on how to improve the living conditions
for a large part of the country’s 250,000-strong Romany minority.
According to various estimates, around 100,000 Romanies are now living in
up to 400 socially and economically isolated areas, often referred to as
In light of the tense situation ion in northern Bohemia and other parts of
the country where people have taken to the streets to protest against
problems with impoverished Romanies, the government now proposes measures
aimed at reversing the trend that has seen a deterioration in the Roma
minority’s living conditions over the last two decades.
The most significant steps proposed by the government include a crack down
on crime in those areas through closer cooperation between the local
authorities and the police; fighting of usury that is rampant in those
communities, and fighting hate crime.
The government would also like to establish more low-threshold
accommodation facilities and help their clients to move on to regular
housing. Social and welfare benefits – the only source of legal income
for a majority of Romanies living it the problem areas – should be handed
out in return for community service and provided the recipients’ children
regularly attend school.
To fight unemployment that reaches up to 100 percent in the socially
excluded areas, the government wants to invest in creating jobs accessible
for people with limited or no work experience, introduce flexible
employment on an hourly basis, and support job creators in these areas.
At long last, the government followed the recommendations of Czech and
foreign experts alike and now wants to end the practice of placing a
disproportionately high number of Romany children in special schools. These
schools should only serve children with severe learning disabilities while
socially handicapped children should be included in regular schools with
increased support by teaching assistants.
Zdeněk Ryšavý is the head of a leading Czech Romany advocacy group,
Romea. He welcomes the new strategy but says we’ll yet have to wait for
its practical outcome.
“I think this is in fact the first material outlining measures to be
adopted to improve the situation of those people. It also gives estimates
of how much these measures will cost, and says that these investments will
pay off. But what I’m concerned about is how many of those measures will
eventually be put into practice.”
The series of around 100 measures proposed in the new strategy, including
a number of changes to the legislation, should be implemented by the year
2015. The document estimates their annual costs at around 15 billion