Conditions in reception facilities

Poland

Author

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

The location of some of the reception centres is criticised by NGOs. Centre in Bezwola, Dębak, Grupa and Linin are located in the woods. The centre in Warsaw (for single women with children) is situated far away from the city centre, near factories and a construction company. Nearby there are no shops or other service points, to get to the centre asylum-seeking women have to walk through densely tree-lined road and this road is not illuminated enough. This raises concerns with regard to safety of single women living there.1

Living conditions differ in reception centres. In the centres managed by private contractors ensuring certain minimum living conditions standards is obligatory on the basis of agreements between these contractors and the Office for Foreigners e.g. centres have to have furnished rooms for asylum applicants, a separate common-room for men and for women, kindergarten, space to practice religion, a recreation area, schoolrooms, specified number of refrigerators and washing machines.2 Other conditions are dependent on the willingness and financial situation of the contractor.3 The Supreme Audit Office (during an audit which took place in years 2012-2014) assessed living conditions in 10 controlled centres as good.4 The Office for Foreigners reports that in the reception centre in Debak there is a renovated building in high standard in use since 2016, fully adjusted to the needs of disabled. In Biala Podlaska the rooms, corridors and preschool area were renovated as well.5

Asylum seekers are responsible for cleaning their rooms and common areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.6 Asylum seekers often report problem with insects. During the monitoring in reception centre in Warsaw,7 all women pointed out that there is a lot of insects in the centre and even showed bites. Women claimed that pest control procedures are occasionally carried out but they are not effective. The problem with insects was also mentioned by asylum seekers during the monitoring in 2015 (centres in Bezwola and Białystok).8 The Supreme Audit Office (during the audit which took place in years 2012-2014) assessed sanitary conditions in 10 controlled centres as generally compatible with legal requiraments. Identified irregularities were of minor importance.9

Rooms in the centres are designed for 2, 4 or more people depending on family’s needs.10 Single adults can share a room, but in practice in the centre in Bezwola, Grotniki and Grupa they are accommodated in single rooms.11 The Office for Foreigners claims that the amount of toilet facilities and showers is sufficient, although some people complained that it is not the case.12 NGOs point that some of the bathrooms are common for all asylum seekers (they are not situated in the rooms but on the corridor), which increases the risk of sexual-based violence.13

Only in one centre (Czerwony Bór) asylum seekers have to cook for themselves. In other centres asylum seekers receive food from the centre (three meals per day), although there is a kitchen in all centres and asylum seekers can also cook for themselves. Asylum seekers who require specific dietary requirements do receive them (i.e. vegetarian, adapted to their religion or health state, for pregnant women and children). The food provided has to be in accordance with the Act of 25 August 2006 on food safety and nutrition.14 The nutritional values are checked by the Office for Foreigners from time to time.15 In two centres (out of ten) audited in 2012-2014 by the Supreme Audit Office nutritional values of the meals were questioned.16 Accordingly to the legislation food and drinks should be prepared – as far as it is possible – by taking into account religious and cultural requirements. Hours of the meals can be changed by employees of the centre, in accordance with religious practices of asylum seekers.17

Polish language courses are organised in all reception centres, also for children. Different workshops are organised in the centres by NGOs, although it is dependent on their financing. In 2016 there were also classes of the Polish language organised for asylum seekers living out of the centres. The Supreme Audit Office after the audit which took place in 10 reception centres in 2012-2014 criticized that there is no identification of the labour market’s needs provided and as a result there are no tailored workshops for asylum seekers.18 Centres usually have libraries (only once centre does not have one). In 9 centres there is Wi-Fi available and in 4 centres there are computer rooms with free access to internet.19

Asylum seekers can go outside from the centre whenever they want, during the day, but they should be back before 11pm.20

At present, one employee is in charge of approximately 20-30 asylum seekers (staying in and out of the centres).21 There are not enough employees in the centres (2-5 workers per centre).22 As of December 2016 there are 83 employees working in all the centres (number does not include technical-administrative workers like cleaners).23 Staff of the centre is working from Monday to Friday from 7:00 to 18:00. At night and on weekends only guards are present in the centre, which is not sufficient.24

In 2013-2016no protests or hunger strikes in centres were reported.25 However, in March 2014 a group of Ukrainian asylum seekers had numerous concerns about the conditions in the reception centre in Debak – Podkowa Lesna, which were reported by the media. Those concerns related mostly to the presence of insects and the unsanitary conditions.26 At the end of 2014 one of the buildings in this centre was completely renovated, from July 2014 – the second building is renovated.27 The latter was in use in 2016.

In all centres there is a special room designed for religious practices.28 If asylum seekers want to participate in religious services outside of the centre, they have such a right, although in practice remoteness from the closest place of worship can prevent them from participating in such services.

  • 1. Centrum Pomocy Prawnej im. Haliny Nieć, K. Przybysławska (Ed.), “Raport: Przemoc seksualna i przemoc ze względu na płeć w ośrodkach dla osób ubiegających się o nadanie statusu uchodźcy 2012-2014” (“Report: Sexual and Gender - Based Violence in Centers for Asylum Seekers 2012-2014”), (December 2014), 8-10, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/1L1SxFG.
  • 2. Office for Foreigners, Brochure of the Department for Social Assistance (Informator Departamentu Pomocy Socjalnej), 2014, also European Migration Network European Migration Network, The Organisation of Reception Facilities for Asylum Seekers in different Member States. National Contribution of Poland, (2013), 13.
  • 3. Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich (Polish Ombudsman), Realizacja prawa małoletnich cudzoziemców do edukacji. Raport RPO (PL) (Implementation of the right to education for foreign minors. Polish Ombudsman report), (2013), 22, available at: http://bit.ly/1Hz4N4a.
  • 4. Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 20-21, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.
  • 5. The Office for Foreigners’ letter to HFHR from 1 February 2017 no BSZ.WAiSM.0361.7.2017/TB.
  • 6. Information obtained from the Department for Social Assistance, Office For Foreigners, 25.03.2014.
  • 7. Monitoring concluded in September 2013 in reception centre in Warsaw by different NGOs, the Office for Foreigners and UNHCR, available at: http://bit.ly/1LJIgSQ.
  • 8. Monitoring concluded in August 2015 in reception centre in Bezwola and Białystok by UNHCR, different NGOs (icl. HFHR) and public authorities.
  • 9. Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 20-21, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.
  • 10. EMN, The Organisation of Reception Facilities for Asylum Seekers in different Member States. National Contribution of Poland, 2013, 17, available at: http://bit.ly/1elFxAS.
  • 11. Centrum Pomocy Prawnej im. Haliny Nieć, K. Przybysławska (Ed.), “Raport: Przemoc seksualna i przemoc ze względu na płeć w ośrodkach dla osób ubiegających się o nadanie statusu uchodźcy 2012-2014” (“Report: Sexual and Gender - Based Violence in Centers for Asylum Seekers 2012-2014”), December 2014, 10.
  • 12. During the monitoring in reception centre in Warsaw concluded in September 2013, women living in the centre claimed that one of the bathrooms is closed for longer period of time because of a damage. As a result they could use only one bathroom, which ended up with very long queues, available at http://bit.ly/1LJIgSQ.
  • 13. Centrum Pomocy Prawnej im. Haliny Nieć, K. Przybysławska (Ed.), Report: Sexual and Gender - Based Violence in Centers for Asylum Seekers 2012-2014, December 2014, 10.
  • 14. Letter from the Head of the Office for Foreigners from 27 August 2015 no BSZ-0811/1429/15/RW.
  • 15. Information obtained from Department for Social Assistance, Office For Foreigners, 25.03.2014. See also EMN, The Organisation of Reception Facilities for Asylum Seekers in different Member States. National Contribution of Poland, 2013, 21.
  • 16. Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 21, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.
  • 17. Para 10.3 and 4 of the Annex to the Regulation on rules of stay in the centre for asylum seekers.
  • 18. Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 5, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.
  • 19. Letter from the Head of the Office for Foreigners from 27 August 2015 no BSZ-0811/1429/15/RW.
  • 20. Para 10.3 Regulation on rules of stay in the centre for asylum seekers.
  • 21. However, the Office for Foreigners counted all employees, reminding that not all of them work directly with the asylum seekers.The Office for Foreigners’ letter to HFHR from 1 February 2017 no BSZ.WAiSM.0361.7.2017/TB.
  • 22. Letter from the Head of the Office for Foreigners from 27 August 2015 no BSZ-0811/1429/15/RW, 23, 35, available at: http://bit.ly/1GQgTza.
  • 23. The Office for Foreigners’ letter to HFHR from 1 February 2017 no BSZ.WAiSM.0361.7.2017/TB.
  • 24. Centrum Pomocy Prawnej im. Haliny Nieć, K. Przybysławska (Ed.), Report: Sexual and Gender - Based Violence in Centers for Asylum Seekers 2012-2014, December 2014), 12-13.
  • 25. Information obtained from Department for Social Assistance, Office for Foreigners, 25 March 2014.
  • 26. Polskie Radio, "Brud i smród" - uchodźcy z Ukrainy skarżą się na warunki w polskim ośrodku (“Dirty and stinky" - refugees from Ukraine complain about the conditions in a Polish reception centre), 27 March 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/NY8bKX.
  • 27. Letter from the Head of the Office for Foreigners from 27 August 2015 no BSZ-0811/1429/15/RW.
  • 28. Letter from the Head of the Office for Foreigners from 27 August 2015 no BSZ-0811/1429/15/RW, also: Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 9, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti