30 October 2015

On 22 October, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein strongly criticised Czech Republic for its treatment of refugees and migrants in detention centres. The systematic detention for up to 90 days, strip-searches to confiscate money and the extremely poor conditions of the detention centres were defined as systematic human rights violations.

Detention based on migration grounds seems to be a regular practice aimed at discouraging people to come to or transit through the country, the High Commissioner stated. Detention is used to return people to the country they arrived from. However, while some countries, such as Austria, accept the returnees, other countries – Hungary or Greece, for example – do not. In practice this means that the detention is prolonged for up to 90 days, at the end of which, people are released with an order to leave the country. NGOs condemn the practice as they believe the detention serves no actual purpose, and is therefore illegal. While the country ceased to detain Syrians transiting to the Czech Republic to reach Germany or other European countries, detention is still used for other nationalities.

High Commissioner Zeid reported credible allegations that people in detention are strip-searched to confiscate their money, which is then used to pay for their own detention: people are charged with a daily cost of 250 crowns (around 9 €) for their involuntary stay in detention centres. As a result, when they are released they are often destitute or heavily indebted with the country that detained them. People who have been able to challenge the detention in court have been released. However, most detained refugees are not in a position to swiftly challenge their detention because they do not receive information about free legal aid and NGOs’ access to detention centres is very limited.

The Czech Republic is one of the few countries that voted against the quota for the redistribution of asylum seekers under the EU relocation mechanism. Czech President Miloš Zeman, who was also criticised by the UN human rights body for his “Islamophobic” statements, rejected the accusations from the UN.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 30 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.