Roma, who numbered an estimated 300,000, faced varying levels of discrimination in education, employment, and housing and experienced high levels of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy. Societal prejudice against the Romani population at times resulted in violence.
According to European Commission research data published by the NGO In Iusticia in July 2014, 32 percent of Roma had been threatened or attacked because of their ethnicity; approximately 66 percent of assault victims did not report the attack. A poll conducted in March found that 79 percent of respondents considered Roma “unlikeable” or “very unlikeable,” while only 4 percent had compassion for Roma. According to a poll conducted in July, 48 percent of firms in the country would not employ Roma. Another poll conducted by the European Commission found that only 29 percent of Czechs would feel comfortable or indifferent about working with a Rom and only 11 percent would feel comfortable or indifferent if their child fell in love with a Rom. The same poll indicated a high level of intolerance toward Asians and blacks.
The national media continued to give disproportionate coverage to crimes and acts of violence committed by Roma compared with similar behavior by members of the majority population or other minorities. White-media.info, a webpage registered outside the country, listed the names and addresses of activists and hacked the website and e-mail addresses of several high-profile individuals who either worked on Romani issues or expressed support for Roma in the past.
The new minister for human rights and the minister for labor and social affairs made public statements in support of socially disadvantaged groups, in particular Roma, and advocated policies favorable to them within the government.
Roma participated in politics and were members of mainstream as well as Roma-specific political parties. In the 2014 elections, Romani candidates had little success on the national level, but some were elected to local offices (see section 3).
According to the Ministry of Interior, extremists held 291 events in 2014, including several anti-Roma demonstrations. Police and NGOs agreed there was less anti-Roma activity during the summer, a common time for extremist groups to hold demonstrations, than in the summer of 2014. Throughout the year there were several demonstrations protesting against accepting migrants and refugees. The demonstrations, many organized by the groups Anti-Islam Bloc and We Don’t Want Islam in the Czech Republic, drew several hundred to one thousand participants. In July more than 60 neo-Nazis and other extremists demonstrated against a xenophobia awareness event in Ostrava. According to media reports, police detained the extremists when they attempted to march into a district where many Romani live. NGOs focusing on migration issues reported an increase in telephone and e-mail threats over the previous year. There were also several demonstrations in support of migrants and refugees.
NGOs reported the level of hate speech increased during the year among politicians, including members of parliament, senators, and local politicians across the political spectrum, with Muslims increasingly the target. In August, at a soccer game in Jablonec nad Nisou, fans displayed a large banner showing a pig-like character in a turban being kicked by a woman. Police were investigating the case as a possible hate speech crime. At a July anti-immigration demonstration in Prague, a protester carried a mock gallows with a sign saying “for treason,” for which authorities stated he would face criminal prosecution. In November the leader of the group We Don’t Want Islam in the Czech Republic, Martin Konvicka, was charged by a state attorney with inciting hatred of Muslims.
According to the Ministry of Interior’s 2014 Report on Extremism, there were 184 hate crimes reported, 139 persons prosecuted, and 129 charged, but court proceedings were pending at year’s end.
Approximately one-third of Roma lived in “excluded localities,” or ghettos. According to an October report by the Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs, the number of ghettos in the country doubled to 600 since 2006, and their population grew from 80,000 to 115,000 over the same period. Ghettos usually had substandard housing and poor health conditions. In addition to housing discrimination, urban gentrification and rent increases contributed to the growth in Roma-dominated ghettos.
NGOs examined multiple housing advertisements and found that Romani applicants experienced discrimination when seeking to rent residential and business locations. While the law prohibits housing discrimination based on ethnicity, NGOs stated that some municipalities applied regulations in ways that discriminated against certain socially disadvantaged groups, primarily Roma, including basing housing decisions on the reputation of the applicant and family at previous residences. The ombudswoman identified a case of direct discrimination against a Rom by a real estate agency in Northern Bohemia. A Romani woman sued a property owner for a public apology and 100,000 korunas ($4,200) in compensation for refusing to rent an apartment to her. The case went to a district court in Litomerice, which ruled in August that the property owner had to apologize to the woman. The court rejected the plaintiff’s claim for compensation.
In the first half of 2014, the funds disbursed by the government to subsidize housing grew by 24 per cent, compared with the first half of 2013, to approximately one billion koruna total ($42 million). According to the government’s 2014 Report on the State of the Romani Minority in the Czech Republic, the government issued 64,500 individual housing payments per month in 2014, 600 fewer payments per month than in 2013.
Other problems affecting Roma included indebtedness due to lack of access to banking services, exploitation by predatory lenders, and discrimination.
A disproportionately high number of Romani children attended remedial schools known as “practical schools,” which effectively segregated them into a substandard educational system. According to 2014 statistics from the Czech School Inspectorate, approximately one-third of Romani children attended such schools, which provided little opportunity for them to continue to higher levels of education. In regular schools, officials often segregated Romani children from the majority population by placing them according to the location of their residence (often in a Roma-majority neighborhood) or need for remedial instruction. The Ministry of Education issued a regulation in September 2014 that improved the method of testing for special needs, including by involving more experts in the decision process. The regulation requires increased retesting over the course of a student’s education.
The Agency for Social Inclusion is responsible for implementing the government’s strategy for combating social exclusion to improve education, housing, security, regional development, employment, and family/social/health services for socially excluded or disadvantaged individuals. Many such individuals were members of ethnic and other minorities. The agency implemented a national project focused on educating youth about tolerance, sharing best practices of social inclusion in local government, and conducting a national media campaign against racism and hate crimes for youths under the age of 25.
There were some reports of violence and discrimination against members of other ethnic minorities.
In June 2014 the Senate’s Committee on Immunity fined Senator Vladimir Dryml 20,000 koruna ($830) for verbally assaulting a Yemeni doctor. The committee determined the senator’s comments had a racist subtext.
Results of inspections carried out by the Czech Trade Inspection Authority in the first half of the year showed that discrimination against consumers in the Czech market was rare. The authority conducted almost a thousand inspections to monitor consumer discrimination and proved only eight cases of discrimination. The cases considered discriminatory because of nationality included failure to serve food to restaurant guests, billing an extra service fee in a restaurant, or billing foreigners higher prices for drinks. Other cases of discrimination included refusal by a real estate company to rent an apartment to a Rom and refusal to serve a Romani guest in a motel.