Economic migrants use children as 'human shields': Czech leader

In his latest outburst the Czech president has accused wealthy economic migrants of cynically exploiting children to reach the European Union (AFP Photo/Rene Gomolj) (AFP)

Prague (AFP) - The Czech president Sunday accused economic migrants of using children as "human shields" in their bid to reach Europe, as the continent grapples with its biggest migration crisis since World War II.

President Milos Zeman has made several fiery broadsides against migrants, earning sharp criticism from the UN's human rights chief, who this week also accused Prague of systematically detaining migrants in degrading conditions to put off others.

In his latest outburst, to the Blesk tabloid, Zeman accused wealthy economic migrants of cynically exploiting children to reach the European Union.

"They serve as human shields for guys with iPhones to justify the wave of migrants," President Milos Zeman said in a video interview on the website of the Blesk tabloid.

"Those hiding behind the children ... in my opinion, do not deserve any compassion," added the outspoken veteran leftwinger.

"They bring the children over in rubber dingys, knowing they might drown," said Zeman, in office since 2013 as the Czech Republic's first-ever directly elected president.

The statements follow his earlier fiery remarks targeting refugees, including "no one invited you here."

Zeman also recently said migrants would "respect sharia (Islamic law) instead of Czech laws" and that "unfaithful women will be stoned and thieves will have their hands cut off."

He has lashed out at Islamic women wearing the veil saying "we'll be deprived of women's beauty, because they'll be covered from head to toe.

"This would obviously be an advantage for some women, but they're few and far between."

On Thursday, United Nations rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, termed the Czech president's remarks "Islamophobic".

Hussein also sharply criticised the Czech Republic, an EU and NATO member, over poor conditions at centres where it locks up refugees, including children, detained on their way to western Europe.

Zeman on Sunday invited Hussein to come to the Czech Republic to inspect conditions at the camps.

More than 600,000 migrants and refugees, mainly fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have braved the dangerous journey to Europe so far this year, according to UN numbers.