Angus Bancroft (1999) '"Gypsies To The Camps!": Exclusion and Marginalisation of Roma in the Czech Republic'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/3/bancroft.html>
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Received: 4/5/1999 Accepted: 25/7/1999 Published: 30/9/1999
"The Stranger is thus being discussed here, not in the sense often touched upon in the past, as the wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow, but rather as the person who comes today and stays tomorrow. He is, so to speak, the potential wanderer ... He is fixed within a particular spatial group, or within a group whose boundaries are similar to spatial boundaries. But his position in this group is determined, essentially, by the fact that he has not belonged to it from the beginning ... He is near and far at the same time"
Simmel, The Stranger (Simmel 1950)
"[In answer to the question 'Do most Roma see themselves as part of the Czech nation? Do most Czechs see the Roma as part of the Czech nation?']
They are not given a place in the nation, they have no identity as Czech ... their conditions are so terrible that they can't really identify with the Czech nation. Czechs don't see the Roma as Czech either. They seem them as something else, they don't let them be a part of the nation."
Kara (Interview April 1999)
"[Under the Communist Party government] we Roma weren't hounded through the streets by skinheads, we apparently got support, and we had social privileges of all kinds. On the other hand, for fifty years we were also inadaptable, we stole, we were crooks, and I don't know what else. Well, just Gypsies. Instead of elementary school, our children went to special schools and that was just fine with everyone. How perverse ... as if we had never lived in this country. Right from the beginning, the Communists shoved us out to the edges of society. And woe to anyone that might want to change their label of inadaptable person"
Anna Polakova, Radio Prague
"In the middle of 1991, I began to feel in society a certain tension in people's behaviour. During afternoon walks, I noticed swastikas and under them anti-Roma slogans like 'gas the gypsies'. It was horrible, because Marecek and Helenka [her children] were already able to read. And the children in school started to be more aggressive than before. They started to have bigger problems in school because they were Roma"
"The citizenship law still excludes [the Czech Roma]. There has been much criticism of this, and the government has made some changes but they are mainly cosmetic. Most Roma still do not have citizenship, and this excludes them from many rights which Czechs take as normal"
Kara (Interview February 1999)
"Some Roma activists, such as Emil Scuka, say 'we are Czechs' - other Roma criticise them for saying that, saying that they have no place in the Czech nation. They don't feel Czech."
Kara (Interview April 1999)
"[The Czech Republic has] 4% unemployment, but among Roma it is 80%. Not very many of them can find jobs, even when they do get the right education. The Czech Roma were brought in from Slovakia to replace the Sudeten Germans. After the freeing up of the labour markets in 1989 most Roma lost their jobs. With the liberalisation of the labour market, Czech Roma were laid off. Employers sacked them, and were not prosecuted for it. They still discriminate against Roma, and they are not punished when they reject Roma who try to get jobs. Most of the unskilled jobs the Roma used to do were replaced with the labour of people from [further] Eastern Europe, Romanians, Hungarians, etc."
Lana (Interview February 1999)
"The Documentation Centre for Human rights estimates 107 attacks against Roma last year (1998) in the Czech Republic."
Lana (Interview February 1999)
"The law does not recognise racial attacks. They [Czech police and courts] tend to blame the victim. I mean, the statutes are there but they are not enforced, and anti-Roma violence is not punished. They don't prosecute racial attacks as such, they tend to deny the racial motive as such."
Mirka (Interview March 1999)
"Many Roma [in Bulgaria] are familiar with police violence. They are beaten in pubs, at marketplaces, in the street, and in their own homes. Scores have been shot dead or beaten to death by law enforcement officials"
(Petrova 1997: 1)
"In Romania the mob violence against Roma that was typical from 1990 to 1993 was replaced in 1994 by a pattern of police raids on Romani communities."
(Petrova 1997: 1)
"The situation in the Czech Republic was dangerous for me and for my children, as it is for most Roma living there. It is not possible to live over there. I had to accompany my children to school. My father was attacked. I was too. I've been attacked by skinheads several times. They threw petrol bombs into our flat. The last time I was attacked, six months after the previous attack, they told me that beating me was not enough and they called me a Gypsy whore. If I were to go to the doctor after being attacked, and say that I had been attacked by skinheads then he wouldn't examine me. I've got scars on my body and I've had my leg broken by skinheads. We couldn't go out into the street at all. We were living like animals in a cage."
"In the Czech Republic, when we used public transport, sometimes people would spit on my wife, and on my children. I have been beaten up several times by skinheads on the bus. Once I was coming back from my mother's, who is ill, and they beat me up on the platform. If you go to the police, they make a report, or don't make a report, and they say they'll look into it later. If you go to the doctor, he'll examine you, but if you ask for a report, he'll say, 'Sorry, but I can't give you that, because I don't want problems with the police and I don't want problems with the skinheads.'"
Czech Roma refugees, November 1998 (quoted in European Roma Rights Center 1999)
"Gypsy! Gypsy! to the camps!"
Chant of Czech mob, Rokycany, Czech Republic (Fieldwork notes August 1998)
"The train carriage was full of a large number of young men and women. Some of the men had close shaven haircuts, and some had t-shirts displaying the British flag, others had the colours of British football teams. These were not the black uniformed skinheads I had seen in other parts of the country, sporting neo-Nazi badges, carrying truncheons and holding large dogs on the leash. They were loud and a little rowdy, but nothing to seriously disturb any of the other passengers, who found their antics amusing. I stepped off the train at Rokycany, a small, quiet town which one of my informants had recommended to me as being a model of co-operation between the Roma and Czech communities. There were two Roma, a young man and a woman, in the train station. Immediately the 'skinheads' began a torrent of abuse."
Fieldwork notes (August 1998)
"Many Roma are still leaving, in the face of violence and lack of sympathy. They leave for Britain, Ireland, USA, Australia, and New Zealand, which doesn't have a visa requirement. They feel that things are not going to get better."
Lana (Interview February 1999)
"Individual, social and national insecurity, the preoccupation with law and order, jobs and the nation are...combined into one complex syndrome in which external threats and internal doubts are hard to disentangle"
Peter Hassner (quoted in Welsh 1994: 53)
"Czech Roma are on the edge of society, with very low social status, suffer poverty and low social status ... For example, there was an opinion poll carried out in November 1997. 7% had a sympathetic view of Roma, 69% could not tolerate them."
Lana (Interview February 1999)
"The government hasn't taken any concrete steps yet to solve high unemployment among, the Roma, to prosecute racially motivated crimes. Czechs feel that the government is doing a lot for the Roma, but if you ask Roma they will say that the situation is getting worse, not better. They say, 'nothing happens, the situation is getting worse, despite the statements of the government, we can't find work, our children are still sent to special schools, the racist murders of Roma are not prosecuted'. In the street they are still attacked by the skinheads."
Mirka (Interview January 1999)
"Roma do not have hope in a better future, so many are leaving the Czech Republic. But the Czech people will answer you that the situation is getting better, because they hear so much about the affairs of the Roma. Czech people and Roma people are living in two different worlds, and Roma are very sceptic about the future and Czech people are more optimistic."
Mirka (Interview January 1999)
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