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Czech Government Amends Anti-Romani Citizenship Law, But the Improvements Are Cosmetic

12 October 1996

On April 26, 1996, the Czech government amended a controversial citizenship law (Law no. 40/1992 on the Acquisition and Loss of Citizenship) which had gone into effect on January 1, 1993, following the break-up of Czechoslovakia. According to the original law, non-Czechs who had been sentenced to any prison term during the five years prior to December 31, 1992 were ineligible for Czech citizenship. It also excluded all individuals without a valid long-term residence permit. The law was likely drafted in order to remove Roma from the country.

The majority of Roma living in the Czech Republic are of Slovak origin, but a great number of these are long-term residents of Bohemia and Moravia, the Czech half of the former federal republic. According to the Tolerance Foundation (Prague), there were approximately 100,000 Roma on Czech territory in 1994 who had previously been Czechoslovak citizens and long-term residents of the Czech half of the federation, but who had not become Czech citizens. Igor Němec, chairman of the Czech Government Council on National Minorities, put the figure at 70,000.

The new amendment to the law allows the Ministry of the Interior to waive the clean criminal record requirement on an individual basis. The ERRC acknowledges this partial improvement to the law. However, the improvements seem only nominal.

In the first place, the law continues to apply retroactive penalty to numerous individual Roma. Secondly, the law applies double jeopardy: it punishes Roma twice for single crimes. The law is therefore in contradiction of Article 11 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 15 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 7 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the standards set in the Helsinki Final Act.

Additionally, devolving the power to allocate citizenship to the local authorities in no way secures the rights of Roma. Since the amendment to the law has not made explicit the principle that former citizens of the Czechoslovak Federation with genuine links to Czech territory are welcome as Czech citizens, the authorities are still sanctioned to exclude. In addition, Roma report consistent discrimination at the Czech authorities. As a result, the discriminatory effects of the original citizenship law will not be abolished by the amendments approved in April.

(ERRC)

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ERRC submission to UN HRC on Hungary (February 2018)

14 February 2018

Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre concerning Hungary to the UN Human Rights Committee for consideration at its 122nd session (12 Narch - 6 April 2018).

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The Fragility of Professional Competence: A Preliminary Account of Child Protection Practice with Romani and Traveller Children in England

24 January 2018

Romani and Traveller children in England are much more likely to be taken into state care than the majority population, and the numbers are rising. Between 2009 and 2016 the number of Irish Travellers in care has risen by 400% and the number of Romani children has risen 933%. The increases are not consistent with national trends, and when compared to population data, suggest that Romani and Traveller children living in the UK could be 3 times more likely be taken into public care than any other child. 

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Families Divided: Romani and Egyptian Children in Albanian Institutions

21 November 2017

There’s a high percentage of Romani and Egyptian children in children’s homes in Albania – a disproportionate number. These children are often put into institutions because of poverty, and then find it impossible ever to return to their families. Because of centuries of discrimination Roma and Egyptians in Albania are less likely to live in adequate housing, less likely to be employed and more likely to feel the effects of extreme poverty.

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