published: 11.12.2013, 18:17 | updated: 11.12.2013 18:21:17
Prague - The Czech cabinet today approved seven measures aiming at preventing social tension between majority society and the Romany minority from escalating, such as including revised housing benefits, field work in ghettos and reintroduction of community work.
The number of ghettos, mostly inhabited by Romany families, is rising and it is estimated at 400 or even more in the 10.5-million country. According to a recent government report, the problems of these poor neighbourhoods spread to the surrounding areas. Banal conflicts may lead to an escalation of tension.
In 2011, a violent incident in the Sluknov remote border area in northern Bohemia led to a series of protests against Romanies organised by both locals and far-right extremists. Earlier this year, tension between Romany communities and other locals rose in the city of Ceske Budejovice, south Bohemia, and the town of Duchcov, north Bohemia, among others.
Based on the government-proposed measures, field workers will start operating in ghettos and a network of social services should be developed. The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry is to work on a plan for the long-term financing of the system by the end of March.
By the same deadline, the ministry is to propose a way to reintroduce community work for the unemployed. The Constitutional Court abolished the law on community service because it was at variance with the ban on forced labour and some fundamental rights. Under the system, people did not get unemployment benefits unless they worked 20 hours a week. The unemployed would get paid for this work, according to the cabinet's proposal.
Measures should to be taken also in the field of education.
The changes in housing benefits want to make it impossible for operators of dilapidated hostels to make high profits by abusing the housing benefit system. The level of the state subsidy paid to poor families for accommodation will be newly defined and the hostels for the poor will have to meet minimum living standards.
Martin Simacek, head of the government agency for social inclusion, noted that the measures originally included a new legislative definition of social housing.
"It is necessary to take general action against the abuse of benefits by hostel operators. The state should also guarantee that people who can work get the opportunity," Simacek told CTK.
Government ministers should react to possible untrue reports related to Romanies in Czech media, he said.
"The state and its representatives should fight myths about alleged preference of one group of inhabitants that uncontrollably spread especially on social networks and they should use convincing arguments and take a clear stance on the issue," Simacek said.
The measures were prepared by a group headed by former government human rights commissioner Monika Simunkova based on data provided by the government agency for social inclusion.
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