Conditions improve at criticised migrant detention centre

Bělá-Jezová detention centre, photo: CTK

In September, the Bělá-Jezová detention centre for illegal migrants was compared to a prison by the country’s Ombudswoman. On Thursday, the interior minister toured the facility with a group of ambassadors, as well as the country’s minister for social affairs, to show that conditions had improved.

Bělá-Jezová detention centre,  photo: CTK
I spoke to Martin Rozumek of the Czech Organisation for Aid to Refugees asking how he saw the situation.

“We are pleased to see that conditions have improved and that there are no longer 700 detainees at the Bělá-Jezová centre as it was in August and that the buildings are not overcrowded. That said, while we welcome the improvement, we still do not think children should be detained under any circumstances, as was stressed by several UN and Council of Europe committees and we do not think this facility is suitable for children.

“Recugees travelling through the Czech Republic as a transit country did not commit any crime. It is a simple administrative offence and for them to be deprived for freedom for a simple administrative offence is, in my opinion, illegal. So the conditions improved but the system should be changed.”

Martin Rozumek,  photo: Czech Television
Do you think that to a certain extent the government has learned “on the fly” as the crisis developed, that it is better prepared to deal with a larger influx should there be one again?

“I don’t think that the government is necessarily better prepared, it is more that the number of migrants being detained has fallen. The numbers now are quite small. But I am not sure the conditions wouldn’t suffer if the number were to rise significantly.”

The EU has estimated that an additional three million refugees could arrive in 2016; yet we see different countries following their own playbooks, building fences or temporarily closing borders and so on. Will more coordination be needed?

Bělá-Jezová detention centre,  photo: CTK
“In my opinion, much deeper integration in the field of asylum and immigration on the EU level is needed. It is bad to have 28 member countries competing who is the ‘worst’. This is the current situation and better countries, willing to help, are somehow left the losers in this game. So much more integration is required and with it better cooperation with countries of transit like Turkey, Lebanon, maybe one day Libya. [To quell the refugee crisis] diplomacy will also be required and possibly also military efforts to try and end the war in Syria."