Amnesty decries Czech discrimination against Roma students

Roma girls

Roma girls in Karvina, Czech Republic. [Daniela Kantorova/Flickr]

The Czech Republic systematically discriminates against Roma students, according to Amnesty International. EURACTIV Czech Republic reports.

The central European country has been repeatedly criticised by the European Commission for ignoring the problem. Unless it makes progress, the Czech Republic could be brought before the European Court of Justice.

Czech authorities have failed to address deeply rooted prejudice within the education system. This is the key message of Amnesty international’s report, published by Secretary General Salil Shetty last week.

“The core of the whole problem is prejudice, which is leading to stereotyping of Roma people. There is a public perception that Roma people do not value education, they are lazy, and they do not work hard,“ Shetty said an the interview with

The Amnesy report comes as the Commission prepares to assess the Czech government’s progress in dealing with the issue. The EU has long criticised the country’s handling of its Roma community, to no avail. In September 2014, the Commission initiated an unprecedented infringement procedure, for breach of EU anti­discrimination law.

If the Czech government fails to improve the situation, the case could be referred by the Commission to the European Court of Justice. The Czech Republic could face severe penalties.

>> Read: EU regrets Roma integration a long way off

Practical schools

The European Commission and Amnesty International complain that the Czech Republic blocks equal access to education for the Roma children, because they are very often placed in schools for pupils with ‘mild mental disabilities’.

“Nearly a third of pupils in these so­-called ‘practical schools’ are Roma, despite the Roma community making up less than 3 % of the Czech Republic,“ the Amnesty report contends.

The Czech Republic is also criticised for the segregation of the educational system into Roma and non-­Roma schools.

The results of the Amnesty report were sharply rejected by the Czech Minister for Education, Marcel Chládek. The educational system has not been created to be discriminatory, he stressed, adding that any instances of rights violations were individual failures. He accused Amnesty International of working with false information.

Chládek stated that the Czech government has made progress in addressing Roma discrimination. At the beginning of the year, the government adopted an amendment to its education law which would ensure equal access to education for Roma children. This also introduced regular inspections of schools.

Ji?í Dienstbier, the Czech Minister for Human Rights, however, accepted the criticism and acknowledged that there is a problem with the treatment of Roma students in Czech schools.

“We consider the report as a confirmation of the fact that it is necessary to find new appropriate measures to solve this problem,“ he said.

The Roma are Europe's largest ethnic minority, EU figures show. The European Commission estimates the Roma population in the EU at six million, with their origins tracing back to medieval India.

Census statistics show that 535,000 Roma live in Romania, 370,000 in Bulgaria, 205,000 in Hungary, 89,000 in Slovakia and 108,000 in Serbia. Some 200,000 Roma are estimated to live in the Czech Republic and Greece, while 500,000 live in Turkey.

Since 2011, the EU has put Roma integration on the political agenda across Europe, with mixed results. The Commission is also supporting member states in their work to implement public policies and services for Roma inclusion. The new financial framework 2014-2020, for example, makes it easier to use EU funds for the social integration of the Roma population.

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