camping,  Outdoor recreation

Brno cancels new refugee camp idea after overwhelming criticism and pressure from Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner to negotiate on the situation of Romani refugees –

Brno, Czech Republic, has erected these tents for the homeless Romani refugees from Ukraine. (2022). (PHOTO: Tomáš Ščuka)

Brno City Hall, after receiving overwhelming criticism for its approach toward Romani refugees from Ukraine, has announced that it will hold a meeting on how to address the situations of the Romani women from Ukraine who are now living with their children in tents near the Grand Hotel. One option previously on the table was to build a refugee camp in the town of Kuřim in Brno County on land that is owned by Brno City Hall, while another option would be to take advantage of an already-functioning refugee camp near Ostrovačice.  

Roman Burián, head of the Brno City Hall’s press center, informed the Czech News Agency (ČTK) of the meeting plans today. The Kuřim town leadership has said that it disagrees with the plan to build a refugee camp on its territory.  

Brno relocated refugees from Ukraine who had been living on a grassy island in front of the main railway station to a different outdoor space near the Grand Hotel at the beginning of June. The conditions in which those people still live outdoors have been forcefully criticized by nonprofit organizations and by the volunteers aiding the Romani refugees. 

On Tuesday demonstrations were even held about the issue in Brno. “There is no easy solution to this. However, it’s not an acute situation. We’re not talking about something that has to be resolved right now, in one minute, from one day to the next. The situation is stabilized. Thel number of people there is relatively small, at this moment they are being taken care of in an elementary way. We are discussing solutions that have more of a conceptual basis and will be for the longer term,” Burián alleged to ČTK, in direct contravention of the testimonies that have come from those on the spot.

Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner calls another meeting

Brno City Hall was contacted by Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, who also initiated previous meetings with the city, the police, the Public Defender of Rights, the Regional Authority of South Moravia and others, according to Burián. Yesterday a third round of those negotiations was held, according to the city.  

“We are addressing who has to take care of people from foreign states who repeatedly come to Brno to attempt to access humanitarian welfare from the Labor Office, where they will be taken care of and under what conditions,” Burián said, reiterating the city’s line of attack against the Romani refugees from Ukraine. Without providing details to substantiate his allegations, he then asserted that during one vetting of a group of the people at issue undertaken by the Aliens Police, Brno’s Department of Social Welfare, and the Labor Office, it turned out that of 107 such applicants, just three were eligible to claim the humanitarian assistance being offered to refugees from Ukraine who are temporarily protected in the Czech Republic.  

Brno City Hall is thus reiterating the mantra of those politicians throughout the Czech Republic who are alleging that there are “many” Romani refugees here who, for example, are citizens of both Hungary and Ukraine. However, according to public broadcaster Czech Television, the actual number of such persons in the country is absolutely marginal. 

The Czech Police informed Czech Television that of more than 5,000 refugees from Ukraine who were vetted for Hungarian citizenship, just 150 turned out to actually be dual citizens. That is less than 3 % of the number of those vetted, as of the public broadcaster’s reporting earlier this month.

Burián said Brno believes that as long as people’s lives are not endangered, it is not the city’s duty, as a municipality with expanded competence, to care for them. However, as the wife of the Ukrainian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Olga Perebyjnisová, has previously stated, nowhere in Ukraine is safe at the current time, which means that all of the refugees from Ukraine have left because their lives are endangered.  

Kuřim says no to a refugee camp

According to Burián, Brno City Hall owns land in the town of Kuřim and wanted to build a camp for the Romani refugees there. Yesterday’s negotiations were also attended by Mayor of Kuřim Drago Sukalovský (Mayors and Independents – STAN).

“The town of Kuřim disagrees with that solution, it wouldn’t be good. The outcome of the negotiations is that such a solution will no longer be worked on and a different one will be sought,” the mayor told ČTK.

Sukalovský said that in his view, problems should be solved where they exist and that if they arise in one city, it is not possible to resolve them by moving them elsewhere – moreover, according to him, the people involved do not want to leave Brno and would return there at the first opportunity all the same. The third reason the mayor rejects the idea of a refugee camp is that Kuřim, with a population of less than 11,000 residents, already is home to about 500 refugees from Ukraine and both the local authorities and the town itself are already busy caring for them. 

Burián told the media that the logistically and technically easiest solution would apparently be to relocate the refugees into an already-functioning camp in Ostrovačice set up by the Regional Authority of South Moravia. However, also according to Burián, the Regional Authority disagrees with that solution because the Ostrovačice locale is functioning just for the short-term accommodation of refugees. 

The people living in the Ostrovačice facility are those who arrived at the Regional Assistance Center without having their documents in order, which means they are waiting to be vetted. Burián still insists that relocating the Romani refugees now in Brno to Ostrovačice will apparently be discussed further.

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