Date
22 May 2017
A file photo shows security guards walking along a fence topped with barbed and razor wire in a facility for detention of foreigners in the Czech Republic. Photo: Reuters
A file photo shows security guards walking along a fence topped with barbed and razor wire in a facility for detention of foreigners in the Czech Republic. Photo: Reuters

UN urges Czech govt to halt detention of refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has slammed the Czech Republic for human rights violations, accusing it of detaining refugees for up to 90 days and strip-searching migrants for money to pay for their own detention.

Human rights violations appeared to be “an integral part” of a Czech government policy designed to deter migrants and refugees from entering the country or staying there, Reuters quoted Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein as saying.

The top UN human rights official expressed alarm that the Czech Republic’s detention policy was accompanied by increasingly xenophobic public statements, including “Islamophobic” statements by President Milos Zeman.

The criticism follows reports by the Czech public human rights officer and multiple independent lawyers and non-governmental organizations working with refugees.

The Prague government says the detentions are legal. It says it is trying to improve conditions in existing centers and opening new ones. Last week, there were 533 people detained.

“What we fundamentally disagree with is the assertion that the Czech government intentionally and systematically violates human rights of migrants,” Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said in a statement.

Zeid is welcome to visit any Czech facility for detention of foreigners to learn of the situation in person, Chovanec said, adding that the government “will be happy to organize such a visit”. 

A spokesman for Zeman also rejected the UN criticism.

“The president has long warned of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. He stands by his opinion and he will not change it under pressure from abroad,” the spokesman was quoted as saying. 

The Czechs voted last month in a small minority against quotas to distribute asylum seekers across the European Union, putting them on collision course with EU partners.

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RC

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