By BOHEMIST STAFF
PRAGUE – More than three quarters of Czechs don’t want to share their neighborhoods with Roma, a poll released yesterday from the Centre for Public Opinion and Research found.
The poll was conducted from June 3 to 20 and interviewed a range of Czechs based on averages supplied by the Czech Statistical Office. Respondents were as young as 15 years old.
To the question, ‘How do you assess the overall coexistence of Roma and non-Roma populations in the Czech Republic?’ 78% responded very bad or rather bad. As horrifying as those numbers are, they are an improvement from last year where 83% of respondents gave negative responses to the question of coexistence. This year 18% of respondents said they got on well with their Roma neighbors and community compatriots, another improvement from last year when only 14% gave the thumbs up.
So why the continued grievances?
The survey respondents themselves seemed to identify the continuing issues the Czech Republic has faced with integrating and protection Roma.
Almost half of the respondents said they believed Roma had a worse chance of obtaining employment than non-Roma. More than a quarter believed Roma had a worse chance than non-Roma of obtaining public/civic status and a high school or tertiary education.
More than half of the respondents (54%) said they thought the national government was not doing enough for or about the Roma community, but respondents had a more favorable view of municipal government actions and policies.
The Roma are an ancient nomadic culture, assumed to have originated in Punjab on the Indian continent and began immigration around the 9th Century. The earliest records of Roma in Czech lands is from the 15th Century and faced persecution and discrimination under the government of the time and continuing, sociologists argue, up until modern day.
Czech Roma were the victims in the hundreds of thousands to the genocidal Nazi regime and after the fall of Czechoslovakia to the communists in 1948, the official citizen status of Roma was repealed, compounding the ill treatment of the minority group.
A number of international watch dogs including Human Rights Watch and the US State Department have issued statements of concern about the plight of Roma in Czech Republic, where they face enormous obstacles in obtaining and keeping employment, and suffer from both legal and social discrimination.
In the most recent Czech census, only 13,150 respondents identified as Romani nationality. However, 40,370 cited Romani as their language. The European Roma Rights Centre estimates the Roma population in Czech Republic as between 250,000 and 300,000, a little less than 3% of the national population.