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Czech Rebublic: Prime Minister To Meet with Roma leaders

Prague, 13 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Czech Prime Minister plans to meet tomorrow with representatives of the country's Roma (Gypsy) community amid a growing debate over how much racism it faces in the Czech Repubic.

Vaclav Klaus called today for the meeting after a TV news program last week sparked interest among many Romas in seeking asylum in Canada from what they call widespread discrimination in the Czech Republic. Individual local officials in several cities including the eastern Czech city of Ostrava have since fueled the debate by making a controversial offers to fiancially help Roma residents leave the country.

Since the news program on private NOVA TV last Thursday, the Canadian embassy in Prague has received hundreds of calls from Roma asking about how to win asylum. The program showed a Roma family living comfortably in Canada while awaiting a decision on an asylum application.

The Roma population in the Czech Republic is estimated to number about 200,000 people. Canada, which follows the same UN convention on refugees observed by many other countries, has no special program for Czech Roma