New wave of asylum seekers comes to Czech Republic from Slovakia

KOSICE, East Slovakia/(PDM staff with CTK) 6 October - The Czech Republic has registered a new influx of asylum seekers from Slovakia. The majority are Romany citizens from the Kosice region, Jana Matejusova from the Czech Interior Ministry's press department told CTK yesterday.

According to recently published data of the Czech Interior Ministry, 619 Slovak citizens applied for asylum in the Czech Republic this year, which is more than four times more than last year.

The last wave of Slovak asylum seekers was in 2003 when the record number of 1,055 applications were submitted. The media then talked about an exodus of Romanies from Slovakia.

Ladislav Sana, mayor of Kosice-Lunik IX, which is the largest Romany housing estate in Slovakia, said that Slovak Romanies are leaving the region in great numbers.

But the chances of Slovak applicants to obtain asylum in the Czech Republic are nearly zero because Slovaks as EU citizens cannot get asylum in another EU country, according to EU law. Moreover, most of them state that their reason for leaving their country is financial. Czech authorities have not granted asylum to any Slovak citizen since 1993 when Czechoslovakia split into two countries.

Czeslaw Walek from the Czech government council for Romany affairs said that the influx of Slovak Romanies worsens the already bad living conditions of their Czech relatives, who often accommodate them at their homes.

"The Czech families already live on the poverty line, in small flats. The arrival of newcomers worsens their adverse situation," Walek said.

However, the government council receives information on the arrival of Slovak Romanies from Romany regional coordinators and they have not registered any mass influx recently.

Apart from hundreds of asylum seekers, thousands of Slovak Romanies who seek jobs come to the country every year. Hospodarske noviny (HN) yesterdy estimated that the number of Slovak job seekers is three to five times higher than that of the asylum seekers

Lunix IX mayor Sana said that Romanies leave mainly to seek jobs and also because they feel they are the victims of discrimination.

"It in fact is no surprise to me. They mostly leave to find to jobs as there is no work here. They don't have problems getting a job in the Czech Republic and nobody discriminates against them," Sana told CTK.

Romanies from Bystrany, east Slovakia, leave Slovakia as well but they mostly travel to Britain, not to the Czech Republic. "They go to Britain to make money and then they return again," Bystrany mayor Frantisek Ziga said.

Countering the exodus reports, Pavlovce nad Uhom mayor Jan Jansto said he has not heard about people going abroad, though it was common in the past for Romanies, who form two-thirds of the municipality, to go abroad, especially to Belgium.

Romany activist Magda Karacova said Romanies from central Slovakia stay at home even if their living conditions are deplorable. "Romanies from the region are poor but they live in peace. We have not registered any mass exodus and nothing of the kind is expected," she said. Over 95 percent of the Romanies in Zarnovice where Karacova lives are unemployed.

The Slovak government's regional coordinator Andrea Buckova from Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia, nevertheless said she believes that there are still reasons for Romanies to leave their homes and move abroad. She said these reasons are mainly financial as the differences in the Czech and Slovak living conditions have even increased in the last several years after the implementation of the Slovak social reforms, which greatly reduced benefits for the unemployed.

CTK news edited by the staff of the Prague Daily Monitor, a Monitor CE service.

Oh, but why would those Romani be fleeing the Slovak Republic, one of the new EU states as, according to the EU, having accepted this country, everything regarding the Romani People there is hunky-dory. They must be economic migrants looking for a better live in the West [sarcasm off/].