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Czech Roma respond to president: We do work!

Czech President Milos Zeman (pictured September 2018) said that the Roma minority were "put off by work", sparking a social media compaign where European Roma flooded his Facebook with photos of them at work
Czech President Milos Zeman (pictured September 2018) said that the Roma minority were "put off by work", sparking a social media compaign where European Roma flooded his Facebook with photos of them at work dpa/AFP/File
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Prague (AFP)

Members of the Czech Republic's Roma minority on Wednesday flooded social media with photos showing them at work, after President Milos Zeman suggested they were work-shy.

"It's no longer amusing to hear people say we don't work. So we'll flood Facebook with our work photos," Stefan Pongo, the mastermind of the campaign, had posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

Only hours later he wrote that he had already received 1,000 photos from Roma holding down various jobs in the Czech Republic but also in Britain, Germany and Ireland.

While visiting the eastern town of Kojetin last week, Zeman said most of the unemployed in the area were Roma, before expressing regret that the totalitarian era was over.

"Under communism, the Roma were forced to work. They mainly worked as ditch diggers," said Zeman, who is known for his controversial statements.

"Those who refused were labelled as people who are put off by work and were sent to prison," he told reporters and local residents.

Pongo's social media initiative was backed by Romea, a Czech Roma rights NGO, which on Wednesday published a collage of some of the photos on www.romea.cz, its website.

"European Roma flood Facebook with hundreds of photos of themselves at work, tell Czech President to stop insulting them," Romea said on its site.

Zeman was also criticised by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), which on Monday sent him an open letter condemning his "racist scorn for Romani citizens of the Czech Republic."

Between 250,000 and 300,000 Roma live in this EU member state of 10.6 million people.

In a report this year, Amnesty International criticised the Czech authorities for discrimination against Roma regarding access to housing allowances and education.

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