Czechs accused of abusing migrants

The UN has accused Czech authorities of “systematic” rights violations in their treatment of refugees and migrants.

The Czech Republic was holding migrants in “degrading” conditions for up to 90 days, the UN’s human rights chief said.

Zeid Raad Al Hussein said migrants had been strip-searched to find money to pay for their detention.

Meanwhile, Sweden has said that up to 190,000 asylum seekers will arrive in the country this year, more than double previous estimates.

The Swedish Migration Agency said an estimated 33,000 unaccompanied children are expected.

‘Designed to deter’

While other European countries had implemented policies to restrict the movement of migrants, the Czech Republic was “unique” in its routine detention of migrants for long periods, Mr Hussein said in a statement.

He said the measures taken appeared to be “designed to deter migrants and refugees from entering the country or staying there”.

Mr Hussein said one detention facility in Bela-Jezova has been described as “worse than a prison” by the Czech justice minister.

‘Courting controversy’

The UN rights chief added that he was alarmed by the “xenophobic public discourse” accompanying Czech government policy, including statements by Czech President Milos Zeman.

The president’s spokesman said the UN’s criticism of Mr Zeman was part of an intensifying campaign against the Czech Republic over its stand on the refugee crisis.

“He stands by his opinion and he will not change it under pressure from abroad,” he said.

Mr Zeman frequently courts controversy with Islamophobic remarks, says the BBC’s Rob Cameron in Prague.

Czech President Milos Zeman speaks during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York: Czech President Milos Zeman has come under fire for his comments on Islamic refugees

While visiting a butcher shop on a recent visit to southeast Moravia, the president told reporters that Muslim refugees would stone women to death for adultery and cut thieves’ hands off.

Refugee advocates were outraged last month when images emerged of Czech police inking numbers on migrants.

Sweden under strain

Also on Thursday, the Swedish Migration Agency said it will need an additional 70 billion Swedish krona ($8.4bn; £5.4bn) over the next two years to cope with arrivals.

Expected accommodation shortfalls in Sweden could see tens of thousands of asylum seekers spend the winter in heated tents.

“We have seen pictures of people who are literally walking from Greece across the Balkans to Germany and on to Sweden,” Migration Agency head Anders Danielsson said.

A firefighter works to extinguish a fire that broke out early in the morning at an accommodation for asylum seekers, near Munkedal in Sweden October 20, 2015.: Sweden has seen several suspected arson attacks on asylum seeker shelters

More than 100,000 asylum seekers have so far arrived in Sweden in 2015, well above the 74,000 previously forecast for the entire year.

At a minimum, the agency expects 140,000 asylum seekers in total.

Although polls indicate that most Swedes are welcoming of refugees, there have been several recent attacks on centres housing asylum seekers.

On Wednesday, Italy sent 70 Eritrean and Syrian asylum seekers to Sweden and Finland under a controversial EU-funded relocation plan designed to ease the burden on frontline countries where migrants arrive.

Growing tensions

Thousands of migrants continued to arrive in Slovenia which seen more than 34,000 people cross into the country from Croatia since Saturday.

Thousands of migrants have been moving through the western Balkans as they try to reach northern Europe amid tough conditions and plunging temperatures.

Migrants wait to enter into Croatia from Serbia, near the village of Berkasovo, Serbia, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015: Migrants in Croatia have been crossing into Slovenia since Hungary closed its border

Slovenia has accused Croatia of allowing too many migrants to cross into its territory.

The EU’s migration commissioner is visiting the country on Thursday to discuss its request for financial assistance from the EU and help from other states’ police forces.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has called a special summit of Balkan leaders for Sunday in order to find a better strategy to manage the migrant flows.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

BBC News