CZECH HELSINKI COMMITTEE
Centre for Refugees of the Czech Helsinki Committee
Considering the status of human rights protection in the Czech Republic, we rely on the experience acquired from the activity of the Centre for Refugees of the Czech Helsinki Committee.
In co-operation with governmental and non-governmental organisations, media and individuals and under their support the centre has been providing or arranging for legal, social and other assistance to refugees for five years (e.g. health care services, psychological and social services, assistance in difficulties etc.). The Centre is opened for refugees from Monday to Friday and every week its employees visit their clients in refugee camps (Červenż Śjezd and Bělá-Jezová), or in asylum homes, health care facilities or flats. The Centre organises courses of education towards citizenship through the course of Czech language intended for applicants for refugee status. Instructors and volunteers work mainly with children of asylum applicants.
The work of lawyers of the Centre consists of lectures regarding our law on asylum procedures and appeals or suits that can be filed with the Supreme Court. Upon the client's request the Centre staff can be present at the introductory interview conducted by the staff of the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic.
Besides informative interviews and consulting services social workers of the Centre provide the concrete help, such as mediation of the contact with state or international organisations, searching for and contacting the relatives etc. .
The Centre contributes to efforts for implementation of changes in insufficient and often conflicting legislative, it tries to influence public opinion by a number of public presentations in media etc.
The clients of the Centre are applicants for refugee status in the Czech Republic, refugees de jure, refugees de facto and rejected applicants who filed a suit with the Supreme Court. Problems that the employees of the Centre for Refugees have to face during the performance of the above mentioned activities can be summarised into the following interconnected areas:
Czech mass media and political representatives unfortunately often support or even create in consciousness of public the image of foreigners and refugees which does not reflect the reality and it is extremely unfavourable. Sometimes on TV we can watch completely false remarks about the increase in crime in areas around refugee camps which results in speculations about crimes committed by refugees and foreigners in general that do not have any substantiation. Allegedly the criminality is higher among them than in the Czech population. Data presented by some officials are not accurate and they just reflect their ignorance of the situation and sometimes these data are even presented in a pejorative way.
Within the fight against xenophobia and fight for human rights the employees of the Centre often speak in public either through television, radio, newspapers and magazines or at different meetings and conferences, e.g. at the international conference called "Xenophobia and Media" (organised by the Syndicate of Journalists of the Czech Republic, Foundation for Freedom of Speech, Czech Helsinki Committee and Czech Radio), at the conference of the Central European Forum "Population Migration in Europe: Myths and Facts" or at the "Forum of Civil Society on the Occasion of 80thAnniversary of the Modern Czech Statehood".
It is important to disseminate the image of foreigners in our society which reflects the reality.
Last but not least it is important to fight against different forms of discrimination of foreigners on all levels. Refugees, who try to solve their health and family problems, problems related to education (mainly of children), often face an insurmountable language barriers at their negotiations with different authorities, ignorance or unwillingness of workers to deal with foreigners. There is also an increasing trend of intolerance towards people of different colour. Employees of authorities and the police often deal with refugees in an undignified way and fates of refugees are in their hands, the police threatens them and places them under distress. Behaviour of the police is unacceptable especially towards the refugees who crossed the Czech border illegally - as if our society forgot that refugees just beseech the rights encored in the General Declaration of Human Rights, especially in Articles 13 and 14. The number of complaints of foreigners about discrimination at work and open demonstration of xenophobia and racism goes up. In view of that it is obvious that the Czech Republic does not provide the foreigners with the right to integration.
It is necessary to enable foreigners an access to information and rights they are deprived of. Within this effort the representatives of the Centre for Refugees participate in meetings and activities of the international group "Round Tables on Community Relations in Newer Immigration Countries" initiated by the Council of Europe where they try to address these problems in line with other European organisations (Migration Policy Group, Population Migration Division of the Council of Europe, European Cultural Foundation), with representatives of the Czech state administration, local administration and non-profit, ethnic and scientific organisations.
Unclear and insufficient laws cause and contribute to a number of problems. Probably due to these unclarities officials in different positions too often show a tendency to apply restrictive procedures and interpretation of laws.
The group which has the biggest problems, in a large degree caused by holes in the legislative, are rejected applicants who filed a suit with the Supreme Court, however, they do not have valid travel documents and they cannot stay in the Czech Republic complying with the Law on Stay of Foreigners in the Czech Republic. On top of that it means that they are not allowed to work in the Czech Republic which results in the fact they do not have enough money and it worsens there psychical situation (after a long-term forced inactivity and stay in the camp) and in addition to that they cannot negotiate with embassies of their countries. They are fully dependent on the assistance of the Centre which based on the agreement with the administration of refugee facilities and UNHCR funds covers their board and lodging in the refugee camp (Bělá-Jezová). Problems are also associated with reimbursement of health care provided to those waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court. Many times we have to face unpretty approach of doctors for whom the payment for the treatment is more interesting than a sick person itself.
In last 3 months the number of applicants for asylum dramatically went up. While in the first 9 months there were 200 refugees who applied for asylum per month, in the last quarter the number of refugees arriving in the Czech Republic went up by more than four times (only in October there were 800 new applications filed). Conditions, under which the refugees are forced to live in camps, are undignified.
The structure of refugees arriving in the Czech Republic has also changed. In the past the majority of refugees came from Bulgaria, Romania, Armenia and Afghanistan, today they come mainly from Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
During its work the Centre for Refugees of the Czech Helsinki Committee learns, how dangerous is nationalism and all forms of violent solution of conflicts. It learns more and more that lack of respect to human rights and threat caused by ethnic, racial and religious intolerance crosses the borders of individual countries. Employees of the Centre try to influence the opinion of Czech citizens and their relationships towards refugees and foreigners in general. Up to a certain degree this relationship is affected by xenophobia and latent racism.
Health Care for Refugees
applies to three groups of refugees:
In the case of applicants for refugee status living in refugee camps costs of health care are covered by the Ministry of the Interior. However the health care in camps is not provided on sufficient high quality level. There is a number or reasons of this situation. One of the main reasons is the current major increase in the number of refugees. Camps are overcrowded and this brings about possible spread of infections and increase of psychic pressure on persons living there. Then we can notice the increase in psychosomatic diseases and psychic defects. In this difficult situation there is no time for prevention and services of psychologists and psychiatrists are not available in the required scope. In principle we can say that people from refugee camps do not have an opportunity to be examined by medical specialists; in the majority of cases they come to them late and costs of their treatment are thus higher.
In the second group of refugees misunderstandings are caused by lack of information. If these applicants for refugee status stay in a private flat, costs of their health care are covered by the Ministry of Health Care. If they leave the camp, persons willing to take care of them, have to sign a form issued by the Ministry of the Interior in which they have to declare that they will pay costs of refugees' health care. Even though employees of the Centre for Refugees of the Czech Helsinki Committee repeatedly pointed to incorrectness of data in this form, it has not been corrected. This worsens chances of refugees to stay in families outside the camp, because the above mentioned formulation discourages the majority of people.
After second negative decision on the application for refugee status people appear in a very difficult situation. If they file an appeal with the Supreme Court, for whose decision it is necessary to wait two years on average, their position is very uncertain. They live under tremendous pressure because they are afraid they will have to go back to their country of origin. According to the former legal interpretation of the law they were applicants for refugee status, but now they dealt with in accordance with the Law on Foreigners and therefore they should pay for health care themselves. If they do not have any documents, they cannot work, they do not have a chance to make money and therefore they do not have money to pay for health care. If they have documents, they can ask for a residence permit, but they are obliged to pay for their health care themselves. Only persons employed are insured. The rest of the family, usually wife and children are not insured under the law. Insurance of foreigners is very expensive and in some cases they are rejected; insurance companies are not obliged to insure them. This was the case of a mother with a child suffering from leukaemia.
In the future it is necessary to improve health care in refugee camps which would reflect the health condition and the number of people living there. We have to realise what physic stress these people are exposed to and we have to react on this situation. It is also necessary to tackle the issues of refugees who cannot pay for their health care themselves due to objective reasons.
The issue of migrants in the sense of freely moving persons is one of the main pillars of the concept of the European Union which insists on unlimited circulation of people without recognising borders between the member states, i.e. in the European territory. The Czech Republic as a candidate for membership in the EU (apparently) has not been affected by this trend yet. If we do not pay attention to traditionally not too friendly approach of the Czech society towards everything foreign and thus suspicious, the generally negative perception is strengthened by passivity and arrogance, frequent corruption procedures or mere unwillingness of state officials in dealing with foreigners' issues. It is a very serious problem of the Ministry of the Interior on the level of the highest and ordinary officials, policemen and civilians.
The Czech Helsinki Committee repeatedly witnessed very inequitable approach in the course of reviewing applications for the state citizenship mainly from the Ministry of the Interior and its civil administrative unit. The author of this article repeatedly reminded the new ministry officials of this fact and in principle he met with positive response and he considers necessary to pay permanent and close attention to the whole issue.
Regarding refugees' issues, the situation is not too tensed from the legislative and factual point of view (also thanks to activities and co-operation of the Centre for Refugees of the Czech Helsinki Committee with the Ministry of the Interior). Even though in 1998 there were 4,000 applications for refugee status in the Czech Republic registered, which is a double number in comparison with previous years, it is necessary to continue in concrete investigations of legality of applications by the bodies of the Ministry of the Interior. With respect to valid international standards it does not seem to be desirable to apply restrictive legislation or constrictive interpretation of the existing legislation.
Prepared bills (about the stay of foreigners in the territory of the Czech Republic, asylums) have not been recommended yet and they require further amendments. The Czech Helsinki Committee formulated some significant objections within the commentary proceedings.
The Czech Republic cannot escape the provision on the European mobility of persons. On the contrary it is a big task of the Ministry of the Interior to create favourable conditions for such mobility while maintaining efficient prevention of potential risks for internal order and safety of citizens.
To the Current Situation of Emigrants With Former Czechoslovak Citizenship
An important debt in the area of citizenship is still the situation of some ex-citizens of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic who were deprived of their citizenship after they fled from the Republic for the democratic West. These people were deprived of citizenship under respective laws from 1949 and 1969 (Czechoslovak citizenship and citizenship of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic) and these laws do not provide these people a chance to regain the Czech citizenship. It is because in the current wording of the law on acquiring and deprivation of Czech citizenship the acquiring of citizenship is bound to a waiver of the original (current) citizenship of the foreign country without differentiation between completely foreign citizens (who have never been citizens of the former Czechoslovakia during the era of socialism) and those foreign citizens who were deprived of Czechoslovak and Czech citizenship under the socialist law against their will and in conflict with any internationally acknowledged democratic principles.
Proclamated move in understanding of the institute of citizenship - viewed from the perspective of the position of the constitutional principle of state citizenship unity - should not focus only on the solution of ex-citizens of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic issues who should be allowed (as an exception) to acquire the second citizenship besides the current one. It should also focus on the change in position of emigrants who strive for revival of contacts with the Czech Republic in an honest and legitimate way so as they were not forced to cut contacts which enabled them to survive a very difficult period of their life, during which at the time of oppression of freedom their country behaved in disgraceful manner. If this society is not able to solve their problems after 10 years of democracy and open society, it can face very unpleasant questions. Up to what degree this state cut contacts with the past and compensated for injustice of the past? What is going to be behaviour of the state which has maintained and conserved results of the work of the then socialist state malevolence.
Mgr. Pavel Bílek
III. RIGHTS OF NATIONAL MINORITIES
The objective of this chapter is to summarise events of 1998 with respect to the position of Romany community in the Czech Republic considering international standards and requirements.
The year 1998 was characteristic mainly by political changes which brought about other changes. The government of Josef Tošovský acknowledged the problem of relationship of the state towards national minorities and expressed its willingness to solve this problem. In its keynote address it committed itself to build a dignified monument in the place of the then Romany concentration camp in Lety.
In the elections in June 1998 the new government was elected. The government of social democrats follows the efforts to solve the problem of discrimination of the Romany minority. It institutionalised the office of the governmental commissioner for human rights. It appointed Petr Uhl, a famous fighter for human rights, into this position and thus confirmed the seriousness of its intention and the programme of the office itself stressing the importance of this position. The police and prosecution office pay close attention to prosecution of racially motivated crimes. Upon the pressure from abroad the Chamber of Deputies passed a partial amendment to the Law on Citizenship which stipulates that citizens of the Slovak Republic who had the place of residence in the Czech Republic as of 31 December 1992 can be forgiven the condition of five-year indemnity.
However the Romanies do not feel to be safe even under the new government and therefore they flee the Czech Republic which remains the subject of criticism from abroad.
The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities came into effect in the Czech Republic on 1 April 1998 and it requires further legislative and administrative changes. This document of the Council of Europe represents the new stage in the development of the international standard in this area.
The history and the development of international standards on protection of rights of national minorities were described in details many times but let us briefly outline them. Since the beginning of the 20thcentury objectives of international associations included protection of national minorities understood as protection against forced assimilation, protection of territorial and local settlement, existence of communities, language, culture and religion. In the further development this protection was understood as indiscrimination, i.e. assurance of equality before law, application of fundamental human rights, protection against discrimination. All these requirements were defined negatively (i.e. what should not be done) and they were an integral part of the General Declaration of Human Rights of United Nations Organisation from 1948.
Since the beginning of 70s in Western Europe and the USA we could notice tendencies towards the change from passive to active policy, i.e. specific support provided to minorities by the majority society, support of their development, equal position and comparable chances in the social life. A meeting in Copenhagen devoted a special attention to the situation and position of Romany minority both within the whole Europe and with respect to the situation in individual countries, legislative and policy towards minorities.
The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is another development stage of the concept of protection of national minorities as a part of human rights. It improves standards of protection of rights of minorities by setting out the move from passive measures towards active policy of contractual parties in the area of protection of rights of minorities. It assigns an obligation to the contracting parties which is based on equal social position of people belonging to minorities in the area of education and culture, employment and politics. Enclosed to this Chapter (see the note at the end) we present the full wording of the Framework Convention and its control mechanism.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe passed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities on 10 November 1994. The Czech Republic signed this Convention in Strasbourg on 28 April 1995, the Parliament of the Czech Republic accepted the Convention and passed it in accordance with Article 39(4) of the Constitution as the international agreement on human rights and fundamental freedoms as stipulated in Article 10 of the Constitution of the Czech Republic ("Ratified and promulgated international treaties on human rights and fundamental freedoms, which are binding on the Czech Republic, are directly binding and take precedence over the law"). The President of the Czech Republic ratified the Convention and the ratification document was filed with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 18 December 1997.
Czech Republic on 1 April 1998. Under Article 25 of the Convention all contracting parties are obliged within a period of one year following the entry into force of this framework
the legislative and other measures taken to give effect to the principles set out in this framework Convention. The advisory committee helps the Committee of Ministers of the
parties with respect to the implementation of this Convention.
the conclusions and recommendations adopted based on the periodical report and it gets instructions from the Committee of Ministers.
Reports of non-governmental organisations can serve as a source of information used by the Committee of Ministers and advisory committee when monitoring the implementation of the
Article 4(2) of the Framework Convention
The Parties undertake to adopt, where necessary, adequate measures in order to promote, in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life, full and effective equality between persons belonging to a national minority and those belonging to the majority. In this respect, they shall take due account of the specific conditions of the persons belonging to national minorities.
As results from the above mentioned, the Czech Republic committed itself by ratifying the Framework Convention to assure a certain standard. Together with constitutional laws and international Conventions on human rights it creates the basic legal concept of the protection of rights of minorities. However this concept has not been elaborated in the form of laws, even though the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms refers to them. In view of discontinuity of the governmental policy it is necessary to regulate conditions of the protection of rights of national minorities. If we consider the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, i.e. the constitutional law from 1993, to be the start, then we cannot be satisfied with the fact that for 6 years no laws setting out the rights of people belonging to minorities have been passed. Objectives that are to be achieved have not been set yet. The Framework Convention set forth even stricter requirements for the contracting parties. By ratifying this document the Czech Republic committed itself to achieve set standards and it has to find the way to do so. It goes without saying that standards cannot be met in any other way than through implementation of active policy of the state which would based on the specific support provided to national minorities that the minorities themselves are not able to assure. The scope and intensity of this support has to be proportional to the factual status and position of the minority in view of impacts and consequences on its position in the society.
We will address standards of the minority protection from four points of view arising from the Framework Convention. These are:
It results from the above described cases that racially motivated crimes in the Czech Republic are not the result of problematic co-existence of the majority and the Romany minority but mainly of aggressiveness of racial and xenophobe tyrannical groups. Expressions of anti-Semitism are very alarming which proves historical residues of xenophobia. These attacks are not specifically targeted as a reaction on certain problems which causes that some sympathising public apologises attacks against Romanies. They represent demonstrations of xenophobe moods existing in a part of the society.
It goes without saying that in the case of recourse of racially motivated crimes the most difficult aspect is to prove the racial motive. The bodies active in criminal proceedings do their best to prosecute these crimes. However we believe that to meet this obligation, i.e. obligation to assure protection against forced discrimination, we cannot just use repression. It is very important to focus on systematic education. Statistics talk about the increase in the number of racially motivated and xenophobe crimes and the large percentage is committed by youngsters – 30% and in Prague as much as 80%. Brutality and aggressiveness of perpetrators goes up and it is intensified by indifference and sometimes by sympathies of the public. Thus the number of people belonging to national minorities that are under jeopardy goes up and sometimes this results in exodus from the Czech Republic.
Therefore we have to focus on prevention. In this respect we can see the absence of the governmental policy which would co-ordinate activities of individual sectors. The public is positively influenced by presentations of famous people condemning racial attacks, e.g. Dagmar Havlová and Vladimír Mlynář who took part in the funeral of Helena Biháriová. As results from conclusions of the European Commission on racism and intolerance presented in the Annex to this Chapter it is necessary to provide more information to the public on problems of racism and intolerance and lead the public to higher degree of tolerance. It is also important to have objective news in media. The Committee for Elimination of Racial Discrimination is of the same opinion and its conclusions constitute the annex to this section of the Report.
Ad 2) Protection Against Forced Discrimination in Areas Important for Incorporation of the Minority into the Majority Social Environment
As we reminded last year, it is a common phenomenon in the Czech Republic that Romanies are not served in restaurants, they are prevented the entry to discos etc. The Czech Republic has not find the way, how to meet its obligation resulting from the Convention which includes a clear requirement of guaranteeing the equality before law, not a mere existence of the law. However service providers are much faster and cleverer. In 1998 so called "club membership" became a normal practice. It means that in areas with higher concentration of Romanies there are restaurants, bars and other facilities with a notice on the door that the entry is allowed only to club members. If you are a Romany, you are rejected because you are not a member. If you try to become a member, you do not get any answer. Nevertheless it looks like there is no discrimination!
The pending problem is still low employment of Romanies; reasons have not changed since last year. As mentioned in the last year's Report, main reasons of low employment of Romanies include their low education, lack of qualification and demotivating system of social allowances. It is not the objective of this report to deal with the social allowances system. In any society some people do not like to work and they prefer living from allowances. However it would be discriminating to limit this characteristic just to Romanies. The situation of Romanies, who want to work but can't, is a thorny problem. In 1998 there were cases when Romany candidates for work were rejected with reasoning that jobs have been already filled although it was proved they were still vacant. Protection of the right lags behind because even if the aggrieved person wins the dispute, he/she would not be allowed to keep the job too long. These problems also appeared in cases of Romanies with required qualification. Since 1994 there have been no statistics maintained on nationality. This practice is fully in line with the Charter and other documents on human rights. At the same time it is reported that unemployment of Romanies is 70 – 80%.
Therefore the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs got a task to prepare a system of incentives for employers to employ people having difficulties to get a job and Romanies. The Ministry itself presents as one of the reasons, why it is not able to satisfactorily meet this task, that it cannot determine how many Romanies are without a job. According to our information acquired from Romany organisations the labour authorities keep their own statistics when they estimate who of the candidates for a job registered by them is a Romany. This information is important because it is allegedly misused and there are agreements between labour authorities and employers not to send Romany candidates to them. However it is obvious that the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs was really interested to solve the problem. It would not be difficult for example through the Interdisciplinary Commission for Romany Affairs to ask Romany representatives from individual locations to prepare an estimate of the number of Romany inhabitants in the respective areas. This would not violate constitutional or other laws because any individual would not be considered a representative of the national minority against his/her will and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs would have high quality data for adopting right measures.
It results from the commitment of the Czech Republic that it is obliged to adopt respective measures to promote full and efficient equality of minorities in all areas of social life. Therefore we cannot be satisfied with justification of the ministry that we live in the market environment and it is own responsibility of Romanies to defend whether they are able to face competition or not. Again we call for active state policy supporting Romany minority where the goal is not to eliminate free competition but to promote equality of the minority and the majority.
Ad 3) Right to Self-Realisation and Development of Own Ethnic, National and Cultural Identity
This right is partially exercised in the Czech Republic, besides other means through financial support provided for some Romany activities. The objective picture of Romanies is not sufficiently reflected in mass media.
Just one Romany programme is broadcast on the Czech television once in two weeks but not during the main broadcasting time which prevents representatives of the majority to watch it. We believe that it is justified to make it available to wide public and to include it into the main air time. It would be desirable that some, especially art Romany programmes, were included into basic programme blocks. This certainly applies to beautiful Romany fairy tales, e.g. "Good Night" programme for children. Then it applies to popular entertaining programmes including their broadcasting on New Year's Eve.
It is positive that finally Romanies appeared on television under the assumption that this trend continues.
Completely inadequate is the situation in libraries. Almost no books of the Romany literature, professional and art, are being published in the Czech Republic.
It is an integral part of the national and cultural identity to pay the tribute to holocaust victims. Besides the camp in Hodonín u Kunštátu, the camp in Lety, near Písek, became the place where the largest number of Romanies died as a consequence of genocide. After the war the buildings in the camp were blasted. Today there is a pig farm in this place. Only 135 m far from the pig farm in Lety there is a very humble memorial. Removal of the pig farm would cost 300 - 400 million crowns which the state does not have. The current proposed solution is a public collection associated with an anti-racial appeal. According to our research some Romanies reject this solution. They think that the camp in Lety was the Czech concentration camp and today's Czech state should take the responsibility for this place and remove the pig farm. Therefore it is necessary to adopt such solution which both parties, i.e. the government and the Romany minority, will be able to identify with. Otherwise tension will unreasonably go up. It is clear that consensus on the solution of this painful problem is difficult to find. However its prerequisite is a dialogue.
Lety is located in Písek district which belongs to the least problematic districts with respect to tensions between the majority and the Romany minority. Both parties confirm non-conflicting co-existence, the evidence of which was a meeting from December 1998 when representatives of local Romanies met with mayors of Písek, Milevsko and Protivín at the round table of the labour authority. The subject of the meeting was the integration of people belonging to the Romany community into public life of cities. The meeting ended with a conclusion that Romanies would work in offence commissions at local authorities. This confirms the assumption that efficient solution is only consensual solution, i.e. the dialogue between the majority and the Romany minority.
Ad 4) Full Integration of the Minority into the Society
It is clear that basic areas for full integration of the Romany minority are areas of labour market and education. In both areas we cannot talk about the equal position of the majority and minority. The Romany minority is handicapped due its social and cultural base, especially due to its low education which results in small chances in the labour market. There is no other way out of this situation than the active policy of state and other structures focused on increase in educational chances of the Romany minority.
The Romany community is characterised by lower education and by the life in lower strata of the population.
The data from 1990 show that 80-85% of the Romany population of all age categories have basic education, mostly achieved at special schools. Apprentice schools are successfully completed by 8.4% of Romanies, high schools by 1.2% and universities by 0.3%. 5% of the Romany population stays without any education. Therefore the core of integration is the process of education as a prerequisite of comparable position of the minority in other spheres of the life of the society. The situation is so serious that the state has to provide special support to Romany children and teachers at basic schools to help Romany children to complete this degree of education.
Starting points for integration:
The Czech Republic was many times criticised for segregation of Romany children at special schools. Currently it is impossible to place a child at a special school without the parents' permit. It is well known that Romany parents do not always insist that their child has to attend the basic school and therefore they often agree with his/her placement at a special school. As a reason of their consent they often present that this is the easier way for their child to get at least some low qualification. In line with adopted international obligations and Law on Family (Section 37(1) "Any of the parents cannot represent his/her child in legal matters associated with potential conflict of interests between the parents and the child or the conflict of interests of children of the same parents") it would be adequate to appoint a collision custodian because such consent is in conflict with child's interests(!).
Therefore social workers have to pay attention to Romany families with pre-school children and watch if Romany children are not placed in special schools without sound reasons, or they should initiate appointment of a collision custodian.
Romanies themselves gradually change their view on education which did not play an important role in traditional Romany values. Today it is understood as a major step to full integration.
On 1 September 1998 the Romany Social and Legal High School was established in Kolín from the initiative of Romanies themselves. It is intended mainly for Romanies. 45 students attend this school. The majority of them live at the hall of residence which is located directly in the school building. After completion of four-year school and passing a school leaving exam, the graduates will work as professional social workers in the area of integration of ethnic minority or at district and municipal authorities. This is the only school of this kind not only in our country but in Europe. The school is funded from private means from abroad and domestic sponsors, mainly Romanies. The operational costs of the school will be partially covered by the Foundation of Rajko Djurič.
Non-governmental organisations, such as the New School Foundation, play an important role in multi-cultural education and education towards tolerance. At present these are mainly non-governmental organisations (Czech and Romany) which revive Romany culture and strengthen Romany identity.
However it is the responsibility of the state to create such conditions that Romanies can develop their culture and language. This obligation has not been met yet and no constitutional right of the use of own language as an official language at authorities has been passed. Our findings show that the list of certified interpreters includes only two interpreters for the Romany language in the Czech Republic.
Another obligation of the state is to strengthen information flows at all kinds of schools. This can be done through distribution of specialised literature on multi-cultural societies and education towards tolerance.
For illustration we list some activities related to the accomplishment of this task.
The Romany magazine for children "Kereka" was distributed to basic and special schools with an offer to subscribe to it. A book of Romany fairy-tales "Singing Violin" (M. Voříšková) was distributed mainly to special schools and basic schools with higher number of Romany pupils. All basic schools and high schools received a specialised "Historical Calendar" (C. Nečas) on the history of Romanies. Schools also received a book for teachers of basic and high schools "Basic Information on History of Romanies" (J. Horváthová), high schools received a book called "It Is a Long Way to Go" (M. Preussová) etc.
Between 27 and 29 August there was a seminar "Summer School of Tolerance" organised for basic and high school teachers in co-operation with Open Society Fund, Romany Museum in Brno, training centre at the Jewish Museum in Prague and Institute of Research and Development of Education at the Teachers' Training Institute of the Charles University. This seminar should continue in the future. In 1999 a seminar "Romanies and Ethic of Multicultural Relationships" and "Romanies and Alternative Pedagogy" and the whole number of other events and educational programmes on multicultural education, tolerance, programmes against racism, xenophobia and extremism will be organised.
We also noticed the use of a problematic textbook of civics for the 9th class of special schools (Alena Pleskotová, Septima, 1996). The author tries to present the history of Romanies in the Czech lands in a very controversial manner. In this context we have to remind that one half of special school pupils are Romany children. Thanks to this textbook they can learn something about themselves, for example: "Once they (the Romanies) performed good work, their relationships with Czech citizens calmed down and they even married to Czechs." Those who know the history of Romanies are surprised. All that persecution was the blame of Romanies themselves, because they did not met labour standards.
Another step forward is the fact that the University in Ústí nad Labem included into the common curricula for the preparation of teachers of the first degree of special schools a course called Culture and History of Romanies and the course on Romany language. Those students from other branches who are interested in this course can select it as a facultative subject. Similar situation is at the Teachers' Training Institutes in Prague and Olomouc. However these subjects should become an integral part of all future teachers, not only of students of special pedagogy. The current system assumed that Romany children would not appear at basic schools.
Considering the fact education is a key area in view of Romany integration, efforts of the Czech state have been insufficient so far. Although some progress was made last year, the problem has not been addressed sufficiently. The results show that one of the possible ways to overcome the handicap of Romany children at schools is the activity of Romany assistants. Despite that this solution is still in the stage of experiment. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport paid attention only to basic schools. There is no comprehensive solution which would also cover pre-school education, high schools and universities.
The position of Romany assistants has not been addressed satisfactorily which can be a consequence of the continuing lack of communication between individual sectors resulting from unsystematic approach, the absence of integration policy of the Romany community. Although the Czech Republic undertook to develop an active policy, we do not see integration but on the contrary segregation activities. This problem draws the European attention and it has a negative affect on efforts of the Czech Republic for integration into the EU. One of such activities is planned construction of a wall in Matiční ulice in Ústí nad Labem which should separate buildings of "white" inhabitants from buildings of Romanies.
Finally we have to say that despite efforts of both governments in 1998, this year will not become significant from the perspective of international community and its view on meeting criteria of the Framework Convention. While the Czech Republic has to meet the demanding requirements of integration of the Romany minority, it is not able to assure its elementary protection.
It goes without saying that the Czech Republic will have to implement sooner or later an active integration policy because an antipode of the integration of minorities is their discrimination, marginalisation and disqualification in the life of the society, increasing ethnic tension and declining identification of minorities with the society and the state regardless of obligations which the Czech Republic took over by the ratification of international conventions on rights of minorities. Any preparatory steps for the preparation of this policy have not been taken as yet.
A pending and bypassed issue is the identity of Romanies. According to sociologist Ivan Gabala we have to distinguish whether they are an ethnic minority or a social minority associated with ethnic, racial and discrimination burden created by the majority society. This issue is key for the decision whether to support the identity of Romanies as an independent minority or to achieve integration through tools of social and cultural policy similarly to other marginal groups, i.e. mainly through the orientation on individuals and families. To make a thorough analysis, we would need more detailed information on the Romany minority, mainly on its social, economic and cultural situation, on its attitudes and own perception. Only the analysis of these and other facts can solve the issue what policy to opt for with respect to Romany integration into the majority society. The situation is complicated by non-existence of a group partner on the side of Romanies (the Romany organisations do not sufficiently co-operate) but this is not an apology for the government. On the contrary the above mentioned analysis could contribute to better understanding of this issue and based on that to the solution of major issues by Romany representatives. It is necessary to clearly formulate goals which the government wants to achieve in this area and to create adequate government's policy. This can make the approach of the government to people belonging to the majority and people belonging to minorities more transparent. At present we cannot deny that the government endeavours efforts to solve the unfavourable problem, however, its measures are only partial steps without a wider context which do not have the public support. The reason may be the fact that individual steps are not clearly formulated. Under the current targeted efforts to create such policy we cannot isolate the executive power from the academic field and non-governmental sphere which can satisfactorily cover the gaps in government's knowledge, experience and activities.
The Czech Helsinki Committee reminded of all these facts in its Report on the Status of Human Rights as early as in 1995. We urge the importance of this issue once again more intensively considering four-year period which has not bring any major change in the policy of the Czech Republic towards the Romany minority.
The author thanks for advice and valuable assistance in the preparation of this essay to Dr.
Ivan Gabala and Eva Schmiedová.
Annexes - see the home page of the Czech Helsinki Committee on Internet:
1) ECRI and Conclusions Regarding the Czech Republic
2) Conclusions of the Committee for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
3) Demonstrative Overview of Government's Decrees
4) "Permanent Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations on Framework Convention" Project
5) "Halámky" Case