The English documentary "Gypsies, tramps and thieves?" realised by Kate Blewett and Bryan Woods in 1999 notably shows a Roma young mother who lives in revolting conditions in a single room shared with twenty-three other Roma. We can see them piled up in a very small space. The toilettes don't function any more, and are regularly flooded. This striking scene is followed by the interview of a Czech woman in the street, who calmly assesses that Roma are not unhappy to live as they do, because it's part of their culture. As a democratic country, aiming at respecting Human Rights, Czech Republic is supposed to struggle vigorously against such prejudices and more globally against intolerable conditions of living of Roma community. But one could argue that the situation shown in the video is an extreme case, a marginal situation, stressed in order to shock the audience. Is the situation of housing for Roma really concerning? Hasn't it improved since 1999?
Actually, the situation of housing is even nowadays very often miserable and unacceptable, and the action of the local and national authorities is far from satisfying. It has to be admitted that the situation worsen after the collapse of the communism until the end of the XXth century (I). Though more and more pressure have been put on the state these last years in order to act concretely (II), the situation of housing for Roma is today still concerning (III).
[...] The adhesion to the European Union however served as a mean of pressure from various institutions and organisations to ensure that discrimination against Roma in general would be concretely and firmly fought by the Czech Republic, and by all other countries from Central and Eastern Europe. “PHARE programs” have been launched by the European Union in order to help entering countries to improve their situation on specific points. One of such program, implemented by “Minority Rights” organisation in 2003-4 in partnership with four Roma NGOs, aimed at improving “long-term opportunities for Roma” in the Czech Republic. One main goal was to “improve local public spaces by community initiatives and attractive “safe places” creating within Roma neighbourhoods to de-stigmatise / de-ghettoise Roma housing”. [...]
[...] II) In spite of the pressure of international law and organisations Though the Czech Republic is not directly violating the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) while not guarantying salubrious housing for Roma, it could be accused of violating article which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment: one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Of course, miserable housings cannot be called torture. However, being forced to live in a single-room flat without hot water or salubrious commodities, resulting in the spread of illnesses could, and even should, be considered as a “degrading treatment”. [...]
[...] This program in itself is really important, because it means the recognition by the Czech Republic of the existence of a problem with Roma housing and conditions of living. The success of such program would mean a huge improvement for Roma's situation, but is still not acquired. Indeed, a publication from the Roma decade website devoted to the Czech Republic recently stated that “Roma ghettoes [are growing] in number in the Czech Republic”. This is evidently the exact contrary to what is aimed at by the decade program. [...]
[...] If local authorities start to consider Roma as Czech people with equal rights, and to fight against discrimination, solutions for housings may be found in many cases, and co- housing between the majority and the Roma community might, as a result, might start to improve. Bibliography - Barbora Bukovská, Difference and Indifference: Bringing Czech Roma Ghettoes to Europe's Court, http://www.eumap.org/journal/features/2002/may02/czechromaghettoes (2002) - Delépine Samuel, Housing of Roma in Central and Eastern Europe; Facts and Proposals, May 2006, http://www.coe.int/T/DG3/RomaTravellers/documentation/housing/Housingof RomaMay2006_en.asp - András Bíró Thoughts about Achievements, Challenges, the Past and the Future, http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2707 - Will Guy and Martin Kovats, EU Founded Roma Programs, Lessons from Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic; http://www.minorityrights.org/admin/Download/pdf/MRG_Phare2006.pdf - Tiffany G Petro, Moving forward, Roma in the Czech republic,vol 41, 27th November http://www.ce-review.org/00/41/petros41.html - Rob Cameron, Vsetin Mayor at centre of race storm after evicting Romanies from centre, 03rd Novembewr 2006, http://romove.radio.cz/en/article/21196 - Anna Kubista, Des familles roms privées de logement (Roma families deprived of housing) 26th March http://romove.radio.cz/fr/article/20542 Barbora Bukovská, Difference and Indifference: Bringing Czech Roma Ghettoes to Europe's Court, http://www.eumap.org/journal/features/2002/may02/czechromaghettoes (2002) id. [...]
[...] Another striking example of discrimination against Roma concerning housing is provided by the Central Europe review. In September 2000, it reported the erection of a wall of separation between Roma and non-Roma residents of a district in Ustí nad Labem. The justification of such an act was clearly racist. Indeed, the city spokesman Milan Knotek explained that the wall was a “noise and hygiene barrier”, aiming at separating the “decent people” from the “problematic community” of Roma. (US Department of State: "Czech Republic Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998"). [...]
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