The Czech premier moved Thursday to stop an exodus of Czech Gypsies to Canada, telling Gypsy leaders that emigration wouldn’t solve their people’s problems.
“It is wrong for citizens of a free and democratic country to seek political asylum abroad,” Vaclav Klaus said after meeting with the Gypsy leaders.
Hundreds of Gypsies, who refer to themselves as Roma, are said to be making plans to move to Canada, inspired by a TV documentary that showed Gypsies leading a trouble-free life there.
Since the show aired Aug. 6, prospective emigrants have swamped phone lines to the Canadian Embassy in Prague. Airline officials have reported a huge increase in ticket sales for Canada.
Roma, and many human rights advocates, say discrimination of Gypsies is widespread in East Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic.
On Thursday, Klaus rejected the draft of a government report on the situation of the Czech Roma community, saying it was too vague.
He told the advisory panel that wrote it to come back within three weeks with concrete proposals regarding housing, employment, education and discrimination.
The draft notes that there is a widening gap between Gypsies and the rest of the society. It contends Gypsies are often the target of ethnic violence, and are undereducated, often jobless, and cause crime.
The panel chairman, Minister without Portfolio Pavel Bratinka, said those who plan to emigrate lack patriotism and exaggerate the problems they face.
“We have to bear in mind that this situation was triggered by a single TV documentary,” he said. “At this moment, I’m unable to estimate how many Roma have already left the country but I firmly hope that it wasn’t more than a few dozen.”
It is not clear whether Canada will accept the immigrants. Each claim for asylum will be examined by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. Refugee status can be granted if applicants can prove a well-founded fear of persecution.
Canadian Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard has dispatched a senior official to the Czech Republic in hopes of turning back a wave of “thousands of thousands” of Roma.
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