Thursday, 17 April 2014

Roma integration partly successful, town officials say

8 April 2013

Brno/Vsetin, North Moravia/Most, North Bohemia, April 7 (CTK) - The neighbourhoods primarily inhabited by Czech Romanies and socially weak persons are being gradually integrated into the towns, the mayors of Brno, Vsetin and Most told CTK yesterday.

Representatives of the neighbourhood called the Brno Bronx said the pace of integration should be faster and social workers stress that the changes require more time.

However, there are still problems with disorder and high crime, Libor Stastka, mayor of the Brno-stred district, told CTK.

Some 7000-15.000 Romanies live in Brno, with its 380,000 inhabitants the second biggest town in the Czech Republic.

The locality owes its unflattering nickname to its neglected environment and high crime. Situated in the town centre, it used to be a coveted place for good housing.

"Under the Communist regime, the area with a large number of Romanies got dilapidated. Now it is turning for the better, Stastka said.

The improvement was due to a number of factors such as long-term work of NGOs, investments in urban renewal and more police officers patrolling in the neighbourhood, he added.

Despite this, there is one of the biggest concentrations of gambling houses and pawnshops in the town, he added.

After dark, many people avoid the area, Stastka said, adding that some streets were full of garbage.

The relations between the Romany community and the local town hall have improved, deputy mayor of Vsetin, north Moravia, Kvetoslava Othova said.

The amount of owed rent in the flats belonging to the town has substantially decreased. Two Romany assistants at the municipal police have also helped, she added.

The Romanies themselves are now much more active, Othova said.

Along with field workers, NGO activists help Romany families. They try to increase their financial literacy.

Two new Romany associations targeting children and youths were established last year, Othova said.

There are an estimated 500 Romanies in Vsetin, a town with 27,000 inhabitants. About 100 of them commute to Britain for a several-month work each year, regularly returning.

The Most housing estate Chanov, largely inhabited by Romanies, is plagued by sky-rocketing unemployment reaching 85 percent, Martin Nebesar, director of the Romany Culture House, told CTK.

Nebesar said the institution offered retraining courses as well as leisure time activities to the locals.

Mayor Vlastimil Vozka said Chanov was no longer such a problematic locality as it used to be.

However, the problems with the socially weak and rent defaulters were spreading elsewhere, Vozka said.

Nebesar said Chanov had the worse reputation than the actual state of affairs.

"Unemployment is certainly the biggest problem. People want to work, but they cannot find jobs," he added.

The International Roma Day is on April 8.

Romany ethnic origin was claimed by 13,150 people in the 10.5 million Czech Republic in the 2011 census. However, experts have put the real number of Romanies at about 250,000.

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