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15. 10. 2015
The severe conditions which children and families with children have to endure in Bělá-Jezová constitute a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Objectively speaking, children in the facility have worse living conditions than inmates in Czech prisons. Bělá-Jezová is a former military facility where the living conditions are, in many ways, much worse than those in Czech prisons. Prison inmates are people who committed a crime and were convicted for it. On the other hand, the people in Bělá have not been convicted of any crime and no sentence has been imposed on them. The fact that hundreds of children are detained in this facility goes against our notion of the Czech Republic as a civilised country.
Under the Public Defender of Rights Act, I have a duty to inspect the living conditions of detained foreign nationals. I first visited the Facility for Detention of Foreigners in Bělá-Jezová in October 2014. The report on this visit was published on 18 February 2015. At that time, five children were placed in the facility. I noted already in this first report that the living conditions in the facility were unacceptable for children and recommended that the police do not place them there.
The second visit took place on 31 August 2015. 147 children were placed in the facility at that time. On 3 October, at the time of my most recent visit, 100 children were placed in the facility.
In view of the fact that the Bělá-Jezová detention facility is to be reserved primarily for families with children in the future, I believe it is necessary to inform the public of the living conditions there. The facts I found do not apply to all the detainees. The below is an overview of cases which I and my colleagues observed in the facility.
I can only speculate how traumatised they will be in the future and what kind of consequences it will have for their future lives. What I know for certain is what they are going through is completely unnecessary.
The fact that children are extremely vulnerable and that detention has a negative impact on their mental and physical health is confirmed by a number of expert studies. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, detained children are often traumatised and unable to understand why they are being “punished” when they committed no crime.
The European Court of Human Rights considers the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 3 of the European Convention breached if a facility exhibits the following characteristics:
Bělá-Jezová meets all three of these characteristics. Such makeshift conditions would probably be acceptable in a refugee camp for thousands of people near a war zone. However, they are completely unacceptable in Central Europe. I believe that our country is perfectly capable of providing a couple hundreds of people with living conditions corresponding to 21st century standards and that we do not have to traumatise their children in a way we would never traumatise our own.
These people did nothing wrong. They have not been convicted of any crime. In spite of this, we let them suffer. This is completely unnecessary.
Slideshow to the press conference (Czech): https://www.slideshare.net/secret/kU7q2RAaSVxNc
Report - Evaluation of visits to Bela-Jezova (August and October 2015) (1.6 MB, Adobe Acrobat document)