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Czech Republic: Government To Discuss Roma Emigration

Prague, 29 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Czech cabinet at its weekly session today is due to discuss a report on the state of the country's Roma that it has already rejected on two previous occasions.

Czech President Vaclav Havel will attend the cabinet session this afternoon at which the government's Council for Nationalities' report on the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic will be discussed.

CTK says Havel intends to appeal to the government to approve the document, which offers solutions to the situation of Czech Roma, to prevent their emigration abroad and a possible reimposing of visa requirements by Britain.

The British port of Dover this month has been inundated by hundreds of Roma asylum seekers from Slovakia and the Czech Republic. More recent arrivals have been turned back at Dover or prevented by French authorities from crossing the Channel to Britain.

Meanwhile, Britain has reduced the waiting time for decisions on asylum from 28 days to just five days. Britain is threatening to reinstitute visas for Czech and Slovak citizens.

Czech Prime Minister Klaus on Monday called for British authorities and Czech Roma "to calm down," since this problem could seriously complicate the Czech Republic's chances of joining the European Union.

In Bratislava, A Slovak government spokeswoman said yesterday the emigration of Slovak Roma is not motivated by political factors but rather by social factors and an attempt to take advantage of Britain's system of asylum. Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's cabinet yesterday called on the Interior Ministry to organize meetings between district officials and Roma leaders to inform them of the risks involved in ill-considered attempts to emigrate.