In order to stem the ceasless tide of Slovak Romanies coming to Britain to claim asylum, the British government announced on October 7 that Slovak citizens will now need visas to enter the islands.
Jack Straw, British Home Secretary, said in a statement that the visa requirement, which comes into effect as of October 8, was intended to stop people seeking better living standards from moving from central European countries and abusing the asylum system.
In August, 846 Slovak citizens, mostly Romanies (gypsies), applied for asylum in Britain. Another 701 applied in September, even though the vast majority of their predecessors had been turned down.
Earlier this year Straw said he was worried by reports of an exodus of Romanies from Slovakia and the Czech Republic and warned them that they would not be welcome in Britain. The asylum claimants say they are politically persecuted, and claim that the Slovak government is not interested in dealing with their social problems. Furthermore, they claim to be frequently subjected to racially-motivated attacks.
"We are imposing this visa regime because of the abuse of the visa-free arrangements by some travellers from the Slovak Republic. We must act to ensure the integrity of our asylum system," Straw declared.
12. Oct 1998 at 0:00 | Ivan Remiaš