[Picture for illustration] A young girl cries on the shoulders of a man shortly after they arrived with other migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey. Picture: Dimitar Dilkoff

Czech Republic - A Czech human rights official said on Tuesday conditions at a local detention centre for refugees, including children, were worse than in jail.

“We are speaking about a former military facility that in many respects offers worse conditions than Czech prisons,” said Anna Sabatova, an independent rights official tasked with monitoring the government, after visiting a refugee centre in the northern village of Bela-Jezova.

“The fact that hundreds of children have passed through this facility runs counter to our idea of the Czech Republic as a civilised country,” she said on her office's website.

Sabatova's office added that the refugees were “debased in front of their children, being transported to the centre in handcuffs and locked behind a four-metre fence with barbed wire.”

“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.”

The interior ministry, which runs the centre, is working to improve conditions there, spokeswoman Petra Kucerova said without elaborating.

She said the ministry was “convinced we maintained standard conditions even at a time when these centres were overcrowded because of the migration wave.”

One of the country's four detention centres, the Bela-Jezova facility hosted about 400 adults and 100 children until 80 adults were moved Monday to a new centre at a revamped former prison in the western village of Drahonice.

Unlike EU neighbours Austria and Hungary, the Czech Republic has so far seen few refugees seeking to transit to Germany and other western European countries.

Starting November, the Czech government will station 70 prison guards at the various detention centres in addition to the police officers already there.

AFP