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Will the United Kingdom introduce visa restrictions for Czech citizens?

Radio Prague, August 10th - Fears have been raised once again that the United Kingdom will introduce visa restrictions for Czech citizens as figures released today show that the number of Czech Roma seeking asylum in Britain took a sharp jump over the past month. Catherine Miller has this report:

The number of asylum applications to the UK by Czech Roma has hit an all time high, according to figures for July, released in today's Lidove noviny newspaper. One hundred and ninety two requests for political asylum were filed over the last month - but this figure only covers so-called main requests, in other words a single application on behalf of a whole family. The actual total of asylum seekers is probably three times as much. These results are still provisional and only cover applications made in British ports. When the final figures are released later this month, the total number of Czech Roma seeking asylum is expected to be more than six hundred. Figures are expected to keep on rising over the next couple of months and follow the trend established during last year's emigration when applications for asylum peaked in September.

In June, when the number of asylum requests hit one hundred and forty-three, the British government expressed concern about the constant increase in Roma emigrating to the UK and warned that visa restrictions for Czech citizens may have to be introduced. Only last week, the Czech foreign affairs ministry predicted that the level of emigration for July would be lower than the previous month, sending a good signal to the British government. Human Rights Commissioner, Petr Uhl, however, foresaw this month's increase, predicting a worst case scenario of around one hundred and fifty families seeking asylum. He also predicts that if regularly over a hundred families come to Britain every month, after a few months the Brits will impose visas

The latest figures come against a background of more reports about discrimination which Roma in the Czech Republic are said to experience. Daniel Reschly, professor of education and psychology at Vanderbilt university in the United States, claims that the discrimination, which Roma are subjected to is worse than that which black people used to experience in the US. He bases this opinion on research carried out about the number of Roma children who end up in special schools - while only five percent of the population is Roma, they form half the pupils in special schools.

Meanwhile, the French news agency, AFP, reported last week that according to the international organization, Human Rights Watch, living conditions for Roma in the have worsened recently. The agency reports that up to eighty percent of Roma are unemployed in the poorest regions of the Czech Republic and that the community is ostracized by the majority population.

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