Czech Health Minister Calls For Accommodation To Be Found Outside Prague For Ukrainian Roma

More than 300,000 refugees from the war in Ukraine are currently living in the Czech Republic. Speaking on CNN Prima News, Health Minister Vlastimil Válek (TOP 09) assured the public that the wave of refugees would be managed with no impact on the Czech population, but also asked for public solidarity with Ukrainian Roma refugees. Photo credit: HZS Praha

Czech Republic, May 17 (BD) – The current situation at Prague’s main train station is critical, with hundreds of Roma refugees from Ukraine camping in the area. Health Minister Vlastimil Válek discussed the issue with MP Jiří Mašek (for ANO) in a debate on CNN Prima News. Válek called for the government, in cooperation with regional governors, to find places outside Prague that are willing to accommodate Roma refugees.

In the capital, a tent city for Ukrainian refugees was set up this week in Prague’s Troja neighbourhood. On its first day of operation on Saturday it took in 77 refugees, and more are on the way, according to Prague Fire Department spokeswoman Kateřina Suchánská. The facility is set to serve mainly refugees now located at the main train station. They are expected to remain in Troja until a decision is made on whether they qualify for temporary protection visas. 

“I am glad that nonprofit organisations are getting involved and helping, Ukrainian Roma were used to a certain lifestyle, but it is not entirely compatible with the Czech Republic. We are trying to find a way to allow them to live as best they can, but at the same time not to endanger others. These are very large extended families and we need to find a place where they can live well. I ask for your patience for the time being. We need to find a place outside Prague where they can be happy, where they can follow their lifestyle. But for that we will have to look for a place”,  said Válek.

ANO representative Jiří Mašek argued that the current situation at Prague’s main train station could have been avoided if the government had carefully screened the refugees from the beginning. Instead, the Czech authorities have been very accommodating, and only now started to address the issue and check passports. He also pointed out that Hungary may not be in favour of accepting refugees back onto its territory, given the rhetoric of some government politicians, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Mašek said he hoped the situation would not backfire on the Czech Republic.

Válek again asked citizens to be patient and fellow politicians to explain to people that Roma refugees from Ukraine should also be helped, because they too were hit by Russian bombs and had to flee. “I would also like to say that this is not a matter of years, but of months, because this war simply has to end,” he added, noting that in some places there has already been strong opposition from Czech citizens. 

The Health Minister also announced that he is preparing measures to increase the number of doctors so that both Czech citizens and war refugees from Ukraine can be cared for.  He said he was confident that the Czech health system can cope with the situation, although it will not be easy. 

Because of the inflow of refugees into Prague this week, Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Piráti) called for a national mechanism for the redistribution of refugees between regions. According to Hřib, there are four times as many refugees from Ukraine per capita in Prague today as in other regions of the Czech Republic. 

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