Segregation in the Czech Republic
11 July 2000
In March 2000, the town council of the eastern Bohemian town of Nová Paka purchased a house in a predominantly Romani area of the Předlice neighbourhood of the northern Bohemian town of Ústí nad Labem. They intended to move two local Romani families out of Nová Paka. The families were living in a house in Nová Paka which had been declared uninhabitable by the District Court of Nová Paka, and they had been ordered to leave the building. According to Ms Eva Bajgerová, Romani advisor to the district government of Ústí nad Labem, on April 21, 2000, the two families, about twenty persons in all, and their belongings, were transported by bus and lorry to Ústí nad Labem to move into their new home. The group was accompanied by Mr Čakurda, Romani advisor of the district government of Jičín. When the group arrived and began to unload the lorry, a group of Romani residents in the neighbourhood obstructed them and told the driver to load the furniture back into the lorry and to take it and the families back to where they came from. After this attempt at moving, the families returned to the house in Nová Paka which they had been ordered to leave. The daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on May 11, 2000, that the local government of Ústí nad Labem would try to prevent the moving of the Roma from Nová Paka to the house in Ústí nad Labem. On the day before there had been a public discussion in Ústí nad Labem attended by about fifty local inhabitants — most of them Roma — who asked the town to intervene. The mayor in charge of the Majdalena Jelínková neighbourhood of Ústí nad Labem reportedly promised to prevent the moving.
On May 24, 2000, the ERRC and a Roma representative visited Nová Paka and spoke to one of the families which was to be moved. Mr Vasil S. and his family told the ERRC that under pressure they had signed a contract of purchase on March 15, 2000, and thus bought the house in Ústí nad Labem. Included in the contract, which was signed by the nine adult members of the families, the selling party Veronika C., and the mayor of Nová Paka, is the condition that the Roma pledge that they will leave the house they presently inhabit in Nová Paka. The family told the ERRC that Ms Helena S., born in 1940, no longer receives her pension in Nová Paka. The younger members of the family do not receive social benefits any more, but only coupons for food. The mayor of Nová Paka, Mr Petr Kusík, told the ERRC that the moving of the families is not racism. Ústí nad Labem is the site of a famous previous attempt to segregate Roma in Matiční street in 1999 (see “Snapshots from around Europe”, Roma Rights, Number 4, 1999). According to Czech media, a computer game called “Matiční street” has been circulating via the Internet recently. The object of the game, as reported by the local daily Ustecký Deník on February 26, 2000, is to defend the wall in Matiční by shooting Roma who are trying to take the wall apart. The game involves racist slogans such as “shoot your Gypsy” and “dead Gypsy, good Gypsy”. The daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on February 29, 2000, that other games simulating violence against Roma are also freely available on the Internet.
Consequences of the wall issue continue in other ways for inhabitants of Matiční street. Ms Gizela L., the Romani resident of Matiční street who filed a legal complaint against the wall, states that since the deconstruction of the wall her family has received threatening letters and anonymous threatening phone calls. As of July 4, 2000, the District court in Ústí nad Labem had not ruled on Ms Lacko’s complaint.
(ERRC, Mladá Fronta Dnes, Prague Post Online, Ustecký Deník)