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Czech NGO found barefoot, hungry children in detention center for asylum-seekers who are being charged money by authorities

16.9.2015 18:03
Czech nonprofit organizations held a press conference on 16 September 2015 on the refugee crisis. (PHOTO:  Adéla Gálová,
Czech nonprofit organizations held a press conference on 16 September 2015 on the refugee crisis. (PHOTO: Adéla Gálová,

Czech NGOs report that the conditions in Czech facilities for asylum-seekers are substandard. The situation in detention facilities is especially bad, where asylum-seekers complain that their mobile telephones and money are being confiscated.  

The NGOs are calling on the Czech Education Ministry, Interior Ministry, Justice Ministry and Labor and Social Affairs Ministry to issue common instructions together with experts from the NGO sector to arrange for humane, safe conditions in all phases of contact with migrants who end up in the Czech Republic. Representatives of those organizations presented their proposals at a press conference today.  

According to the NGOs, the Czech Republic is not arranging adequate protection for asylum-seekers. They also criticized the fact that asylum-seekers are frequently deprived of their liberty illegally and that the state is restricting asylum-seekers' movements and placing them in detention facilities where chaos and humiliating, inhumane conditions reign.

Some asylum-seekers have been detained in such places for more than two months. All of their hard-earned money is confiscated by those running the camps.

When the asylum-seekers are released from these detention facilities, they are given just CZK 400, which won't get most of them farther than to Prague's main train station. "We contend that the detention of refugees violates international law," Martin Rozumek, director of the Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU), said today.  

The nonprofits also warned that cases have been recorded of asylum-seeking families being broken up and their members placed in various facilities. Asylum-seeking minors who have become separated from their parents during their journey are reportedly frequently placed in diagnostic institutions.  

"Any placement of child migrants and families with children into detention facilities is a gross violation of the best interests of the children and their right to develop their full potential, and this can ultimately constitute inhuman or degrading treatment," said Anna Hofschneiderová, a lawyer with the League of Human Rights. The NGOs believe children should never be placed in facilities for detaining foreigners in the first place.

"They don't have enough food there, they don't have enough activities and ways to spend their time, and they are constantly in the presence of armed members of a security agency," Hofschneiderová said. "We saw children who were barefoot. We brought them food and saw them even eating food that fell to the ground," Rozumek said.

"We visited a facility with capacity for 60 people at a time when there were 600 people there. Their treatment has since deteriorated further," the OPU director said.  

The occupants of the facilities are charged CZK 250 per day to stay there, which comes to CZK 7 200 monthly. The vast majority of EU states do not charge detainees money.

"These are facilities that are absolutely prisons, with barbed wire and ubiquitous riot police," Rozumek clarified. The NGOs believe the children should be reunited with their relatives living in EU countries as rapidly as possible.

The NGOs say the children should also be provided with sufficient education and interpretation services. Both children and their families should also have access to psychotherapy and to social workers.

The Czech Republic should also stop detaining foreigners as soon as possible, according to the NGOs. The state's practices when it comes to providing support to the needy were also criticized by Monika Horáková, who has initiated volunteer aid to the asylum-seekers arriving at Prague's main train station.  

"At the main train station we have repeatedly encountered psychologically exhausted migrants, most frequently those who have been released from the facility in Vyšní Lhota, who are dressed in summer clothing and have nothing in their pockets but an order to leave the country by a certain date. We offer to let them spend the night in our homes. This means we are personally playing a role that should be being played by the city and the state," Horáková said.

According to the NGOs, the current official instructions about how to deal with asylum-seekers are especially repressive and should be toned down. "We are calling for the creation of instructions that will respect these people's rights and will be based on a humane, human rights approach," said Hofschneiderová.  

The lawyer believes the new instructions should be adopted and implemented as soon as possible. The NGOs will now follow whether the authorities heed their call.

The organizations are planning to lobby MPs and ministers on the issue as well. attempted to contact the Interior Ministry for its official response, but the press spokesperson would only take questions in writing due to high demand; once we receive a response, we will report it.  


Adéla Gálová, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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