Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Czech Republic: Open letter from Romani evacuees in usurious residential hotel


PHOTO  Building no. 106 in Předlice, which has been evacuated. Given the fact that there are more buildings there which look even worse than this one, it is probably that more residents will have to be evacuated from the quarter, but no one knows where they will go. Photo: František Kostlán

The situation in the Czech town of Ústí nad Labem is becoming unsustainable. The first people have been evacuated from the Předlice quarter there and the same fate probably awaits others. The town itself is mostly to blame for the situation, as it sold buildings in the quarter to private owners, some of who have no interest in maintaining them. As some residents have informed news server, some of the buildings probably belong to banks by now because their owners have defaulted on loans using the buildings as collateral. Structural engineers have found flaws in almost 30 buildings in the Předlice quarter, so more evacuations may lie ahead.
The residents who have already been evacuated are concerned about their fate. The residential hotel into which they were moved is very expensive, and their children's commute back to their school in Předlice from the Krásné březno quarter is also very expensive.

"I travel back to Předlice every day with two children. A bus ticket for an adult costs CZK 18, for a child it costs CZK 10. I ride with them in the morning, then I return home. Then I go fetch them when instruction ends. That's four bus trips a day for me and two for the children. Altogether, therefore, we are paying CZK 112 just for transport to school, which comes to CZK 2 240 per month. When we were living in Předlice, we understandably paid nothing for transportation. Even if I convinced my children to go to school elsewhere and leave their friends, no other school would take them," a resident whose family was evacuated from Předlice told news server

The people involved are extremely impoverished. They are supposed to stay in the residential hotel for three months. No one knows what will happen after that. Their fates are being decided without them. The town has not invited them to a single meeting regarding their future accommodation. The residents also complain that human rights NGOs and "pro-Roma" NGOs are taking no interest in their fate.

Below is the translation in full of the open letter from the evacuees:

We are writing this letter in a terrible situation in which we have lost our homes. We are facing our situation alone, without aid. Those responsible are not interested.

We were evacuated against our will from building no. 106 in Předlice, where we had lived for years. First they evacuated us into a primary school gym, where we stayed for nine long days. After that they deported us to the other end of town into a residential hotel charging usurious rents which is infamous for its poor hygienic situation, its strict, almost prison-like regime, and also for the fact that "drugs are running" there. We consider this residential hotel, into which we have been deported against our will, to be a completely inappropriate environment for our children.

We have to transport our children, of whom 27 were evacuated along with us into the residential hotel, every day from the Krásné březno neighborhood to their school in Předlice on the other end of town. The trip there and back takes the children and their adult chaperones about an hour and a half every day and is very expensive.

We are paying exorbitant, unbelievably high amounts of money for unsuitable accommodation in this usurious residential hotel. For a one-room category IV "apartment", with mold and hazardous electrical wiring, we pay between CZK 10 500 to 14 500 per month. This is absurd when the rent on a nice three-room apartment elsewhere in Ústí nad Labem costs CZK 5 000 - 6 000 per month.

At the start they told us we would only be in the residential hotel for a little while, a month at the most. According to the most recent information we have received, we are to stay here three months now. How we will stick with it and what will happen next, we have no idea.

We are illegally discriminated against on the housing market. No one wants to rent apartments to us because we are Romani. Even though discrimination is illegal and unconstitutional in our republic, no one is addressing it, no one is prosecuting it, and no one is doing anything to stop it.

We have learned that there may be a plan to split up our community of roughly 40 people into smaller groups and relocate us in different parts of town. We refuse to do this. We have the right to live together, close to one another. You may not realize it, but we are an extended family.

The town has established a so-called "crisis committee" to take action on our situation, and it was their decision to evacuate us first into the primary school gym and then into this residential hotel. This "crisis committee" takes action about us without us. We don't know who sits there, what they discuss, what they are planning, or what kind of future they are preparing for us.

Stop making deals about us without us! We are not stupid monkeys, as your approach to us indicates, but human beings, and our knowledge of our own situation and the possible solution to it is much better than the knowledge of the gadje who discuss us behind closed doors on their so-called "crisis committee".

Our situation is unsustainable! We call upon state bodies and institutions to ensure that the law is upheld on the territory of the town of Ústí nad Labem, primarily the Anti-Discrimination Act. We call on the Ústí nad Labem town hall to start dealing with our community directly. Make it possible for us to access all groups discussing our fate. We demand the opportunity to participate in the design of and the search for a solution.

We therefore call on all nonprofit organizations working in Ústí nad Labem whose job descriptions include aid to impoverished Romani people to start helping us. Being evacuated into a usurious residential hotel is not "aid", and neither is discussing our fate when we are not present.

We call on human rights organizations outside of Ústí nad Labem to start taking an interest in our critical situation. Send your observers, come take a look at the situation in the residential hotel into which we were moved against our will. Monitor our catastrophe and suffering.

We call on all human rights and pro-Romani media outlets to start reporting on our desperate situation. Where are your reporters?

In Ústí nad Labem, 27 November 2012
František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

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