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NGO: Detention center not fit for children

in Czech News

Aid group, ombudsman say that children shouldn’t be in Czech refugee facility

Prague, Aug 26 (ČTK) — The Czech Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU) and Ombudsman Anna Šabatová consider the detention facility in Bělá pod Bezdězem, 60 km north of Prague, unsuitable for children, although the Interior Ministry says the children are well cared for, daily Lidové noviny (LN) writes today.

OPU reports indicated that the ministry did not provide true information about the facility in Bělá pod Bezdězem, central Bohemia, the paper writes.

“The staff in Bělá told us there were only ten children in the facility. But our volunteers met 50 of them, mostly from Syria or Iraq. Those children were running barefoot and they seemed not to have enough clothes,” OPU head Martin Rozumek told LN.

Rozumek said some of the refugees lived in tents in Bělá and it seemed that this would not change soon.

A team from OPU visited the facility on Monday.

Rozumek said children should not be placed in the Bělá facility. Their placement is unsuitable and legally controversial, he added.

ombudsman report from February also recommended that families with children not be placed there.

Šabatová concluded that the general atmosphere of the Bělá facility, which is protected by the police and primarily for adults, does not correspond to the needs of children.

The police argue that they respect the rights of the families.

“The children stay here with their parents; we cannot separate them, of course. They have play rooms and their families here,” foreigner police spokeswoman Kateřina Rendlová told the paper.

But even Czech courts challenged this routine approach of children automatically being sent to a guarded detention camp, LN writes.

In June, the Supreme Administrative Court sided with parents from Kosovo who complained of their 18-month-old baby girl having to live in the Bělá facility for three months. The police officers and later the regional court absolutely ignored the conditions, in which the baby girl was placed with her parents, and possible alternative solutions, the court said.

An alternative is a camp for refugees in Zastávka u Brna, south Moravia, which is adapted to the needs of families with babies much more, the paper writes.

“Children should not be placed in detention facilities at all,” said lawyer Maroš Matiaško who specializes in legislation concerning foreigners.

Matiaško said he can see that this is rather unrealistic in the present situation, but he pointed out that the Interior Ministry should at least send more children to Zastávka and adapt for children the centre for immigrants in Kostelec nad Orlicí, east Bohemia.

The EU external border has been crossed by high numbers of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who mostly wish to reach Germany or some other West European or Scandinavian country, but not the Czech Republic.

Earlier this week, a commentator of the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau criticized Czech authorities for detaining refugees behind barbed wire. The Czech foreigner police regard the refugees as illegal migrants and place them in detention facilities, although Czech courts and nongovernmental organizations considered it a violation of international law, the commentator said.

The Interior Ministry is not planning to open a special facility for immigrant families with children. It wants to increase the capacity of the centers in Bělá and Zastávka. Along with the newly opened camp in Vyšní Lhoty, north Moravia, there should be 1,200 beds in the detention facilities for immigrants by the end of the year, LN writes.

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