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Gov’t council against housing benefits being cut in ghettos

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Prague, Nov 8 (CTK) – The Czech government’s council for the Roma minority affairs disagrees with the cutting of housing benefits for inhabitants of “areas with a higher occurrence of undesired phenomena” and it wants the relevant para to be deleted from the law on material deprivation, Olga Jerabkova said on Wednesday.

Jerabkova, from the office of outgoing Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka (Social Democrats, CSSD), was speaking to CTK after the council’s meeting.

Based on the recently amended law, towns can partly decide on who of their inhabitants is eligible for housing benefits.

They can impose the status of “an area with a higher occurrence of undesired phenomena” on places where the locals breach the public order, endanger children or are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

In the areas with this status, mostly neighbourhoods, streets or houses with prevailing Roma population, the Labour Office must not grant housing benefits to new applicants.

The restriction has already been applied to selected parts of the town of Sokolov, west Bohemia. Some other towns, including the north Bohemian centre Usti nad Labem, plan to follow suit.

“The council has voiced its resolute disapproval of the restriction of the rights of citizens in material deprivation. It is convinced that the measure will not help tackle poverty and negative social phenomena, but will aggravate them instead,” Minister Chvojka’s press department wrote.

The council called on the Labour and Social Ministry to secure the deletion of the controversial para from the law and “ensure the observance of citizens’ rights and other principles of a law-abiding state.”

Some towns face problems with localities with low-income, mostly Roma population, known as ghettos, where most adults are jobless and families live on welfare benefits.

According to a report on the situation of the Roma minority in 2016, a half of Czech Roma people, about 123,000, lived in social exclusion.

In the Moravia-Silesia Region, as many as 70 percent Roma inhabitants lived on the margin of society, and 60 percent in the regions of Olomouc, north Moravia, and Usti, north Bohemia, the report showed.

The situation did not improve in 2016, compared with the preceding year, it said.

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