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Roma Housing in the Czech Republic

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The conditions Roma lived in at the beginning of the century.
    1. Concentration of Roma in 'Holobyty'.
    2. Functioning of Holobyty.
    3. Discrimination against Roma.
  3. Extent of effectiveness of international law and organisations.
    1. Czech Republic and European Convention on Human Rights.
    2. Development of NGo's in Roma.
    3. Involvement of the European and the outcome.
  4. The unsolved situation.
    1. The ineffecitveness of the developments.
    2. The wrong belief about the way of life in Roma.
    3. The objectives of the Czech Government.
  5. Conclusion.

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.[7] 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?. [...]

[...] Another phenomenon which started to develop after the end of the communism is the concentration of Roma in ?Holobyty?. ?Holobyty? are public housings for ?socially inadaptable? families, meaning people who are not able or are not willing to pay their rent. Roma are overrepresented in these housings. They form 60% to 100% of the population there, while representing only of the total population of the state. Conditions of living are deplorable, very often with no heating, nor hot water or bathrooms[1]. [...]

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