Anti-Roma riots spread in Czech Republic raising fears
12. 9. 2011 15:07
This week's anti-Roma protests and recent racial tension in North Bohemia hide deeper long-term structural problems
Foto: Jan Langer

North Bohemia - Last weekend, three North Bohemia's towns were a scene of anti-Roma demonstration organized by Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS), a minor Czech far-right party. Roughly 600 policemen were sent to maintain order in the towns.

While the demonstrations in Nový Bor and Rumburk were relatively peaceful, the protest in Varnsdorf turned into an unannounced march, with stones and bottles hurled against police lines. The police was forced to use a water cannon to disperse the attacking radicals.

Six people, including three policemen, were injured in the disturbances, and 41 people were detained.

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Police estimates that its operations in the three northern Bohemian towns on Saturday cost Czech taxpayers CZK 3mil.

This weekend's events as well as the long-term situation in the area, characterized by high unemployment, criminality, poverty, and economic underdevelopment, is serious above all in the light of recent riots in London and other English cities, linked to similar structural problems.

Racial tensions have been growing in the so-called Šluknov area in the last two weeks, with racially-motivated violence between the local Roma minority and white majority. Police reinforcements had to be sent to the area. PM Nečas assured that the increased police presence will be maintained until the situation calms down, "no matter the cost".

The three towns are among the Czech Republic's most underdeveloped municipalities, with high unemployment, low education, bad connection to other regions, and with ghettoes for people living under the poverty line.

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According to a government survey from 2006, there are 11 Roma ghettos in the Šluknov area, five of them established by local municipal authorities.

The job market in the Šluknov area is the worst in all the country. The employment situation was bad there even before the outbreak of the global economic crisis in 2008. The number of unemployed in Rumburk, Varnsdorf, and Šluknov increased from 3,500 in summer 2008 to 5,000 at the end of 2009. In May 2011, the number was only slightly smaller, 4,500.

In addition, the Šluknov area was the first part of the Czech Republic to start to feel the effects of the current economic deceleration. While the number of unemployed decreased in the Czech Republic in June and July 2011, in the Šlukonov area registered 120 jobless more.

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The public sector is unlikely to bring many new jobs. Marie Gutová, director of Děčín's labor office, explained that roughly 3,000 public sector jobs are needed. But her office can afford to pay only 200 positions in all the district. Gutová added that a new investment would help too, but it is nowhere to be seen.

According to Ivan Gabal, a Czech sociologist, the central government should help the Czech Republic's underdeveloped regions. Another problem is that the authorities of the Ústí nad Labem region fail to use EU funds for "structurally underdeveloped regions".

"No politician feel responsibility for poor regions," concluded Gabal.

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