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Friday, 27 July, 2001, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Czech uproar over UK travel controls
Czech TV's Richard Samko says goodbye to Nora Novakova
A Roma reporter was turned back, but his colleague flew to London
The Czech Foreign Minister has said British officials will continue to be allowed to screen passengers flying to the UK, despite accusations that they are discriminating against Roma.

The minister, Jan Kavan, said there was no evidence of discrimination, despite a report on Czech TV which showed a Roma journalist, Richard Samko, being turned away by officials at Prague airport.


British officials completely and unanimously reject allegations that people's chances of being allowed to travel to the UK depend on the colour of their skin

Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Palous
The secretly-filmed report also showed the journalist's non-Roma colleague, Nora Novakova, being allowed to continue on her journey.

Both had valid tickets, and told officials they were going to visit a friend. They provided the same London address and declared the same amount of spending money.

Asylum claims

But Mr Kavan emerged from a meeting with British ambassador David Broucher on Friday to say that the practice of screening travellers to London was legal and would continue.

British officials discussing Mr Samko's case
Caught on a hidden camera, officials discuss Mr Samko's fate
The controls were introduced as a temporary measure nine days ago in an effort to reduce the number of Roma arriving in Britain and then claiming asylum.

Mr Kavan said members of some 120 Czech families applied for asylum in the UK in June, while Czech media have reported that most of the 50 people turned away in the first seven days were of Roma origin.

"If the checks were scrapped and the number of Czech nationals seeking asylum in the UK went up again, then a visa regime would definitely be imposed on the Czech Republic," the minister said.

Prolonged questioning

The Czech TV report showed that the official interviewing Mr Samko did not believe his claim that he wanted only to visit the UK as a tourist.

"He is afraid you might want to stay there," the interpreter said.

While Ms Novakova passed swiftly through after initial questioning, Mr Samko was taken aside and questioned for another 25 minutes.

"[The ambassador] said that the reporter had not been discriminated against because anyone else with the same explanation would have failed to pass the British immigration controls," Mr Kavan said.

Roma face widespread discrimination in the Czech Republic, but British embassy official Denis Keefe told Lidove Noviny newspaper that fear of racially-motivated violence was not grounds for granting political asylum.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

18 Jul 01 | Europe
UK gets tough on Czech immigrants
25 May 01 | Europe
Roma festival opens in Prague
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