Monday, 11 December 2017

Pussy Riot member: Czech Republic treats refugees like criminals

ČTK |
5 November 2015

Bela pod Bezdezem, Central Bohemia/Prague, Nov 4 (CTK) - The Czech Republic is treating refugees like criminals, Maria Alyokhina, member of the feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot, said after her visit to the refugee detention facility in Bela-Jezova on Tuesday.

Alyokhina, 27, called the arguments of the Czech government to justify the existence of the facility "absurd and xenophobic."

"Such a camp should not have existed on Czech soil at all. Refugees gain nothing from a stay there expect for a psychological harm," Alyokhina told CTK after the visit.

"The refugees were detained without knowing where they were and where they were placed. They received all information in Czech that none of them can understand," she added.

Alyokhina, along with other Pussy Riot members, was arrested and sent to prison for singing a prayer for the Virgin Mary to "chase Putin out" in a Moscow church in early 2012, in protest against the Orthodox Church's growing influence on Russian politics. She was given a two-year sentence, but released on the basis of a presidential amnesty in December 2013.

Since then she has systematically dealt with prison conditions.

In the Czech camp, Alyokhina talked to the Somali refugees who fled from the war in their country six months ago.

The refugees told her they hoped that they would be released from the camp in September, but they were still kept there, she said.

"This is not right, they must be released," she added.

The conditions in the camp are awful, Alyokhina said.

"They are not allowed to breath fresh air, they spend the whole day sitting in a closed room. The Czech state treats them like criminals, it is not creating conditions for a normal human existence. These people are no criminals, they left their country for fear of their lives," she said.

Refugees cannot be detained under such conditions "unless the Czech Republic wants to follow the same political direction as Russia," Alyokhina concluded.

Ombudsman Anna Sabatova and some NGOs criticised the conditions in Bela-Jezova. She said the refugees lived in worse conditions than Czech prisoners.

Consequently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights rebuked the Czech Republic for its attitude to refugees.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec rejected most of the criticism.

"We must discuss what the standard is and what above the standard is. We believe that we meet the standard of the 21st century," Chovanec said on Monday.

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