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AP Photo/Petr David Josek
A former prison was turned into a detention center.

A new low: Czech authorities strip-searched refugees to find money

By Hanna Kozlowska

The Czech Republic is locking up refugees and migrants in degrading conditions, according to a scathing criticism by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released today (Oct. 22).

Not only are new arrivals kept involuntarily in detention centers, but many are being forced to pay $10 per day for it. In some cases, refugees have been strip-searched by authorities looking for the money.

The required payment does not have “clear legal grounds,” said UNHCR commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in the release. It leaves many of the detainees destitute by the end of their stay, which in some cases can last 90 days.

Children have also been detained, a violation of minors’ rights by UN standards.

“International law is quite clear that immigration detention must be strictly a measure of last resort,” emphasizes Zeid.  “According to credible reports from various sources, the violations of the human rights of migrants are neither isolated nor coincidental, but systematic: they appear to be an integral part of a policy by the Czech Government designed to deter migrants and refugees from entering the country or staying there.”

Zeid points out in his statement that the Czech Republic’s own Minister of Justice Robert Pelikán has described conditions in the Bìlá-Jezová detention facility as “worse than in a prison.”

Zeid’s statement also criticizes “Islamophobic” behaviors from the country’s leaders. ”We will lose women’s beauty because they will be covered head to toe in burqas, with only a fabric net over the face,” president Miloš Zeman said last week, according to Czech media.