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September 23rd, 1998

The British Ambassador to Prague, Mr. David Broucher, Monday visited the Bohemia town of village, where he met with several leaders of the local Romany community. The visit was of particular importance since over 500 Czech Romanies are still seeking political asylum in Britain.

During the visit to Rokycany, Mr. Broucher met several representatives of the local Romany community, as well as presenting a set of strips and ball to one of the town's Romany football teams.

It was the fate of the 550 or so Czech Romanies that have fled to Britain since last year that was most in question during the visit. At the present time, Britain has granted political asylum to only three of this number.

According to the local town hall, around 40 of the asylum seekers hail from the town of Rokycany, and Mr Broucher was quite blunt in his assessment of the problem this poses for immigration office in the UK.

'Quite simply we will have to send most of the applicants back to the Czech Republic. There is no need to introduce visa restrictions for Czech citizens at the moment, although if the number of applicants continues to increase, then we will have to do something.'

This is in spite of the fact that the trend seems to be slowing - in August 65 Czech Romanies applied for asylum in Britain compared with only 29 so far this month.

During the afternoon, Mr. Broucher met Ondrej Gina, the director of the Rokycany based Fund for Hope and Understanding, a Romany run project aimed at harbouring good relations between the local Czech and minority communities. Mr. Broucher declared British support for the fund, claiming that 'This kind of project will be successful, and is a good way for us to give financial assistance.' Mr. Broucher added that it was one of the British priorities to encourage the Romany community to remain in the Czech Republic.

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