It may have been an innocent attempt to get some control in a quickly-escalating situation, as local authorities detain more and more migrants in recent days.
But photographs of Czech police writing numbers on the arms and hands of migrants made the rounds on Wednesday, and an unfortunate link was quickly made.
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) September 2, 2015
“Czech authorities appeared totally unaware of the unfortunate visual connotations with the Holocaust, when prisoners at Auschwitz were systematically tattooed with serial numbers,” writes Rob Cameron for the BBC.
“Fury as Czech police write numbers on arms of migrants ‘like concentration camp prisoners’,” writes the Daily Mail.
“Czech police haul migrants off trains to Germany and ‘write numbers on their arms in ink’,” headlines an article in The Independent.
From The Express: “Officers wrote on the arms of 214 refugees, most of whom are Syrian, after they were detained at a border crossing. It was likened to the de-humanising Nazi practice of writing numbers on concentration camp prisoners.”
Metro: “Human rights activists and lawyers slammed the Czech authorities for the procedure which some compared to the forced branding of Jewish people by the Nazis during World War II.”
Whatever the intentions of Czech police in dealing with the situation, the country undeniably has a black eye at the moment, in terms of perception of the foreign press.
The majority of the refugees are coming into the Czech Republic via trains from Hungary, after many have applied for asylum in that country.
Under the EU’s Dublin regulation, immigrants can be sent back to the country where they have first requested asylum.
Earlier this summer, however, an overburdened Hungary suspended taking back asylum seekers from other EU countries.
On Wednesday, the Czech government announced that they would allow asylum seekers to continue to pass through the country to their final destination, which is in most cases Germany.
And that they would stop numbering migrants with pens.
But the damage may have already been done.