Prague - Minister for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities Džamila Stehlíková launched a brand new agency that is tasked to improve living conditions of the poorest Czechs.
The agency is called Agency for Social Inclusion of Romanies and officially, it has begun to operate February 1.
Initially, it is to operate in twelve selected places in the country for one or two years. Depending on the results of the pilot phase, the agency will spread its activities in other regions of the country as well.
Removing social exclusion
"The goal of the pilot phase is to create an effective strategy for removing social exclusion in all the county," said Minister Stehlíková (Green Party).
"Finally, we should move from words to actions," said Stehlíková, explaining that "experienced specialists" will now handle the issue.
The agency will implement a number of projects, the main goal of which is to keep isolated Roma ghettos from expanding.
The agency will also try to get as much money as possible from the EU structural funds to be used to develop Roma communities.
95 per cent unemployment
One of the twelve selected places the agency will be active in from the very beginning is Chánov in the town of Most in northern Bohemia.
This residential area was built in the 1970s. Later Roma families were moved in to this area and now it is one of the largest Roma ghetto in the Czech Republic, suffering from high crime rates and unemployment reaching 95 per cent.
Some citizens of Chánov owe as much as 23,000 euro to municipal authorities of Most for flat rents and social services. In total, their debt makes over 3 million euro.
Controversy among politicians
The Czech Republic seems to have a rich history of politicians making offensive comments about Romanies.
The most infamous remarks were repeatedly made by the then Deputy PM Jiří Čunek of the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-ČSL) and former mayor of the town of Vsetín. He received nationwide fame for moving Roma rent defaulters from Vsetín. The most controversial remark was his advise to people to get "suntan", if they want to be entitled to social allowances, as Romanies often are.
Other highly medialized case was that of Senator Liana Janáčková who was secretly recorded when admitting she was a racist and in favor of violent segregation.
Tomáš Nepraš, member of City Council of Břeclav in South Moravian region publicly called Roma people "black rabble" and "vermin".
The town of Břeclav is one of the twelve places the agency is to focus on in its pilot phase, along with Ústí nad Labem, Most and Holešov.