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Czech Republic: Minister To Discuss British Visa Restrictions

London, 4 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The Czech Republic's minister responsible for minorities, Pavel Bratinka, will today ask Britain not to reimpose visa restrictions on his country's citizens in order to halt an influx of Czech Romanies seeking asylum.

Bratinka is to make the appeal when he visits the Home Office in London for talks with a senior interior ministry official Michael O'Brien.

A Czech embassy spokeswoman in London, Zdena Gabalova, told RFE/RL today that Bratinka will brief O'Brien about a report adopted by the Czech Cabinet last week that aims to improve conditions for Romanies by raising their education, job and other opportunities.

Hundreds of Czech and Slovak Romanies have turned up at the British port of Dover in the past three months. Some 120 have Czech passports. Many seek asylum claiming racial harassment in their home countries. British politicians say they are not genuine asylum seekers but wish to take advantage of the country's generous welfare benefits.

The British government has come under pressure to reimpose visas on Czech and Slovak citizens following complaints that the incoming Romanies are an unacceptable burden on the country's welfare services.