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Watchdog: Czech refugee camp offers 'worse conditions' than prisons

Migrants in a Czech refugee center were "debased in front of their children," according to human rights official Anna Sabatova. The conditions violate international conventions, she said after visiting the facility.

Czech human rights ombudsman Anna Sabatova decried the situation in Bela Jezova center on Tuesday, describing the plight of refugees detained

in the European Union country.

"We are speaking about a former military facility that in many respects offers worse conditions than Czech prisons," Sabatova said.

The independent official, whose task is to monitor the government, complained that conditions in the facility were traumatizing children, and violated both the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Locked behind a fence

Detaining children in the camp "defies our view of the Czech Republic as a civilized country," according to Sabatova.

"Every evening the foreigners are pulled out of bed by police, who sometimes wear helmets or balaclavas, to be counted. If the children are asleep, the parents must wake them and make them stand up," she added.

The refugees were also "debased in front of their children, being transported to the centre in handcuffs and locked behind a four-meter (13-foot) fence with barbed wire," Sabatova said after visiting the Bela Jezova center.

Avoiding the influx

Commenting on the ombudsman's statement, the Czech Interior Ministry said they were working on improving the conditions.

Ministry spokeswoman Petra Kucerova said that the government was "convinced we maintained standard conditions even at a time when these centers were overcrowded because of the migration wave."

Authorities in the Czech Republic are taking in a relatively small number of refugees

compared to other European countries.

But the police regularly detain undocumented migrants for several weeks, sparking condemnation from rights activists.

Prison guards to help

Bela Jezova is one of the four refugee centers in the Czech Republic, housing several hundreds of migrants. On Monday, the government announced that 80 adults were moved to a new center in a revamped former prison.

The government also intends to send 70 prison guards to assist the police officers securing the detention centers.

Some 710,000 have entered Europe between early January and September this year, compared to 282,000 in the whole of 2014.

dj/bk (AFP, dpa)

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