Czech Radio’s Roma Programme Radio Chief Flees To Canada

Czech Radio's Roma programme chief flees to Canada

June 3, 2009

PRAGUE (AFP) Czech Radio said Wednesday the head of its programme for the Roma minority had followed in the steps of other gypsies and asked for asylum in Canada over “rude attacks” on her family.

“We have decided to ask for asylum… because of constant attacks on my family and the increasingly radical society,” the 46-year-old Anna Polakova wrote her employer in an email.

Hana Hikelova, head of the public radio's news services, told AFP the journalist left the Czech Republic after her son was attacked by four skinheads and her husband was blackmailed.

Polakova, who was in charge of a programme aimed specifically at the 300,000-strong Czech Roma community, added that she and six family members had applied for asylum at the Toronto airport.

Canada became a popular destination for Roma refugees, claiming discrimination and attacks from extremists in the Czech Republic, after it lifted the visa duty for Czechs in 2007.

In the first quarter of this year, 653 Czechs applied for asylum in Canada, according to data from the Canadian embassy in Prague, following 853 applications in 2008.

The influx led Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to warn of possibly reintroducing the visa duty during his visit to Prague a month ago.

The Roma minority held a rally early last month following an arson attack on a Roma-inhabited house in April, which injured a young couple and left a two-year-old girl struggling for life with burns over 80 percent of her body.


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