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Opinion shows that Czechs do not believe wall in Usti nad Labem is a racial issue
Radio Prague, May 26th - In an opinion poll, the Czech people have said overwhelmingly that they do not believe that the controversial plans to build a wall in Usti na Labem that will separate a Roma section of town from the Czechs is a racial issue, or one that should involve the government. Nick Carey has more...

The planned wall in Usti nad Labem, now called the Matecni Street wall in the Czech press, has been the focus of much heated debate over the past year. The planned wall will separate a predominantly Roma, or gypsy, section of town, which consists of emergency housing, from the rest of the population. The Czechs in Usti nad Labem say they want to build the wall to shut out the noise and the piles of refuse left by the Romas. This has been condemned by Roma representatives, human rights agencies, the European Union and others as racial segregation. Thus far the charge has been denied by the Czech residents of Usti nad Labem.

A political battle has been waging over the wall in the country over the past few months, with the Czech government's human rights commissioner Petr Uhl and various Roma agancies attacking the proposal, and local council members supporting it, denying outright that this is an act of racial intolerance.

The new opinion poll, carried out by the agency STEM, asked Czechs if they believe that the Matecni Street is a racial issue. Almost seventy five percent of respondents said it is not. Instead, they believe it is a social issue, as the wall has been built between rent paying residents, and non-payers.

When asked whether this is an issue that should be dealt with by the Czech government, the answer was the same, with seventy three percent saying that this issue is purely a matter for local government representatives to decide.

Another, very important question posed in the opinion poll, and one much discussed lately because of Matecni Street and the growth of neo-Nazi organisations, was is the Czech Republic racist? Two thirds of people asked said no, they do not believe this is a racist country, whilst one fifth answered that it is.

I spoke to one of the directors at the Central and Eastern European Centre for Roma, and an editor of a Roma bi-weekly newpaper, The Roma Voice, Roman Kristov, and asked him if he sees the Matecni Street wall as a racial issue:

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And what about the Czech Republic as a whole? Do you believe that this is a racist country?

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