Czech Republic: European ambassadors tour criticized refugee detention facility
Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) gave ambassadors from other European countries a tour of the detention facility for refugees at Bělá pod Bezdězem in the Mladá Boleslav area yesterday. The camp has been criticized because of its reportedly poor approach towards asylum-seekers detained there; Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová (ČSSD), who has child welfare as part of her portfolio, was also part of the tour.
Journalists were also granted exceptional access to the guarded campus. Chovanec has long rejected all criticism of the Czech Republic's approach to refugees.
Conditions in the detention facility have also been criticized by the Czech Public Defender of Rights, Anna Šabatová and by some ministers and nonprofit organizations. The Czech Republic has also been reprimanded over its approach to asylum-seekers by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Chovanec says he believes the facility meets 21st-century standards. He also said conditions for asylum-seekers' stays there are improving.
In a previous interview with the Swiss Radio and Television Station (SRF), the director of the Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU) in the Czech Republic, Martin Rozumek, called the conditions in Czech detention facilities for asylum-seekers humiliating and inhumane. He also said the Czech Police were engaged in an intensive search for Iraqi, Pakistani and Syrian asylum-seekers who have chosen to travel through the Czech Republic on their way to destinations further north and west.
Czech Police have been placing such persons in detention facilities, including children, entire families, and unaccompanied minors. "[Police do this] for one reason: To deter everyone else. They are sending the signal to all refugees to find a different route to reach their destinations. They want to push this burden onto other countries," Rozumek said.
After conducting a monitoring visit to the detention facility, Šabatová said the children there are worse off than those in the Czech prisons. They were said to lack warm clothing and shoes, among other things.
The Public Defender of Rights also described children in the facilities being frightened by the presence of police and security services there. After meeting with Chovanec on the issue she then said a marked shift has since taken place in the management of such facilities.
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