Czech Police stop marking refugees' arms after critics call it reminiscent of the Holocaust
The Czech Aliens Police has been using markers to write identification numbers on the arms of refugees detained in Břeclav in a way that critics say recalls practices used during the Holocaust. "The published footage does not represent the standard procedure of the Czech Police, this procedure occurred due to the time pressure under which the police were at that moment, primarily because they did not want children to become separated from their parents in such a large group," the Czech Interior Ministry explained today.
The Czech Police Presidium is expected to publish new rules today for handling such situations. Renzo Gattegna, head of the Union of Italian Jewish Organizations, sharply condemned the Czech Republic's handling of the asylum-seekers yesterday.
Italy's Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) wire service reported that Gattegna said the practice was reminiscent of the Holocaust. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that "in Eastern Europe this procedure is unavoidably reminiscent of the one that the Nazis used to identify concentration camp prisoners."
"This is a very serious matter," Gattegna warned. "Dozens of refugees were literally marked like cattle going to slaughter. This inevitably recalls the darkest period of contemporary history."
ANSA reported that police "violently" forced Syrian refugees to disembark from trains heading for Germany on Tuesday and then wrote the numbers "on their forearms". AFP quoted Zuzana Candigliota, an attorney who works with the League of Human Rights, as saying that "No law authorizes the marking of people in such a way."
Ettore Rosato, head of the governing Democratic Party's faction in the Italian lower house, tweeted the following message in response to the news: "EU, stop the Czech Republic! Tagging people is a scandal that offends the conscience and offends all who are doing their best to rescue people."
BBC News online's "Inside Europe Blog" opened its reporting on the issue as follows: "Images of Czech police officers writing numbers on the hands of migrants are an uncomfortable reminder of a different event and a different era. But the Czech authorities appeared totally unaware of the unfortunate visual connotations with the Holocaust..."
"These are awful images," Hana Franková, head of the legal department of a Czech NGO called Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU), told the BBC. "It's absolutely against the provisions of the Refugees Convention, that asks signatories not to punish refugees who came without documentation."
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) also reported on the incident and said it had sparked dismay outside the country. "Like the Nazis in the concentration camps," DPA cited one post on Twitter, where both Czech and Polish users of the social networking site expressed their indignation at the news.
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