Roma leaders warn of another exodus

REPRESENTATIVES of Roma parties have warned that as a result of the worsening social conditions, thousands of Roma are preparing to leave Slovakia after it becomes a member of the EU in May 2004.

Roma leaders, including the head of the Slovak Roma Initiative, Alexander Patkoló, said that Roma would mainly be heading to Great Britain after the country lifts its visa regime with Slovakia. Roma also want to go to Belgium and the Netherlands.

About one thousand Slovak Roma have also applied for political asylum in the neighbouring Czech Republic. Czech officials, however, repeatedly said that their state does not usually issue asylum approvals for Slovaks, as the country is considered a democratic state.

But Ladislav Fízik, head of the Slovak Roma parliament, a non-governmental organization that serves as an umbrella for Roma parties, said that Roma are looking forward to May 1, 2004.

According to Fízik, many Roma will leave the country immediately after that date.

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