Tragic fire in Czechia: segregating persons with disabilities has to end

It is with sorrow that we learned about the tragic death of 8 people during a fire in a residential institution in Czechia. We express our deepest condolences to the friends and families of the people who lost their lives and a fast recovery and strong support to those injured.

This fire underlines all that is wrong in residential institutions. It shows that segregating persons with disabilities in residential institutions leaves them isolated and exposed to all kinds of risks. Risks of social isolation, poverty and exclusion, and in this case also, death due to underfunded and unsafe living environments.

It is estimated that over 1 million persons with disabilities still live segregated in residential institutions in Europe. This must end.

We call on all European countries to prevent these preventable deaths. We call on them to close all residential institutions.

We join Inclusion Europe’s call to Czech authorities: they should properly investigate the fire, why it caused so many deaths and the worrying practices that had been denounced in this organisation; they should provide adequate support to the survivors and to the families and friends of those who died; they should provide survivors with adequate housing and support to live an independent life; they should immediately provide strong measures to conclude the transition from institutional to community-based care.

Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, stated:

There is a humanitarian need, there is a human-rights need to close all residential institutions. No European funding should be used to renovate or build segregating institutions. The EU should invest in the building up of adequate person-centered support for all persons with disabilities.

Milan Šveřepa, Director of Inclusion Europe, added:

The deaths of these 8 men should have been prevented. First, this unacceptable practice of segregating people with intellectual disabilities in large scale institutions should have ended years ago. Second, measures must be taken to ensure the safety of those living in these institutions, as long as they still stay there. This tragedy must be a turning point and a wake-up call for the responsible authorities.