Continuing Problems for Roma from Vsetin, Czech Republic
19 June 2007
On 12 December 2006, Radio Prague reported that the head of the Czech Senate Committee on Human Rights, Senator Josef Pavlata, stated that the Vsetin town hall infringed human rights standards when, in October 2006, it moved several Romani families out of Vsetin to a number of areas in the Jesenik region, including Vidnavy, Stare Cervene Vody and Vlicice. At the time, the then mayor of Vsetin, Jiri Cunek, ordered the eviction of several hundred Romani families, reportedly "rent-defaulters", from their homes to container-like homes on the town outskirts. Additional Romani families were moved away from Vsetin and settled elsewhere in decrepit houses that they are now forced to pay for over the next two decades, according to reports from the non-governmental organisation ROMEA (for background information see www.errc.org). Senator Pavlata's comments, however, contradict those of the Senate Committee. After visiting the container homes in Vsetin, where most of the families were relocated, the Committee reportedly concluded that the city had not infringed the human rights of the families concerned.
Following the forced eviction of the Romani families from Vsetin, Mr Cucek became the Deputy Prime Minister of Czech Republic. Although Deputy Prime Minister Cunek's actions have been widely criticised, including by the chairman of the Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) political party, of which he is a member, Deputy Prime Minister Cunek has refused to admit that his actions were anything other than proper. Deputy Prime Minister Cunek also faces corruption charges in connection with the dealings surrounding the Vsetin evictions, and calls have been made for him to resign his post, which he has refused to do, according to Radio Prague.
As of early May 2007, most of the Romani families were still living in the container homes provided at the time of their eviction, according to the non-governmental organisation Life Together. Life Together also reported that the houses the families were forced to purchase were in substandard conditions. In addition to their poor housing conditions, these families also faced a series of administrative problems, as they were still registered in Vsetin (several hundred kilometres from where they were forced to move). Because of their registration, the families must return to Vsetin to collect social allowances, to utilise employment offices and to see doctors; all services linked to residence registration. Life Together informed the ERRC that the families did not want to register in their current location because they do not want to stay there. The families were reportedly in discussions with a Czech attorney about their options at the time of publication.
(Life Together, Radio Prague, ROMEA)