A well-respected Roma political organiser and twenty-five other Czech Roma are to be deported to the Czech Republic on 25 October, despite the fact that by next May the Czech Republic will be part of the European Union.
Ladislav Balaz, chairman of the Trans-European Roma Federation has, like many of the other Roma threatened with deportation on Saturday, lived here for five years. But with his asylum application refused, he is now prey to the ‘forced removal’ programme being speeded up by the Blair government to meet its quota.
Large groups of Czech Roma have already been flown back to Prague. And UK immigration officers operate at that city’s airport to prevent potential asylum seekers from boarding outward flights.
Ladislav Balaz, a founder member of the Roma Civic Initiative in the former Czechoslovakia, originally fled because he had been targeted by neo-Nazis. ‘My family was repeatedly attacked by skinhead groups’, said Balaz. ‘We’re afraid to go back knowing that they are waiting for us.’ In the UK he has worked tirelessly for fellow asylum seekers, helping to create the Europe-Roma organisation to carry out welfare work and lobbying.
The Trans-European Roma Federation is hoping that, even at this late stage, Balaz will be given ‘leave to remain’ on humanitarian grounds.