Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 10/07/24


Teresa Fachinger, Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik and Marlene Stiller

 Access to pre-removal detention centres

Section 62a of the Residence Act states: ‘Upon application, staff of relevant support and assistance organisations shall be permitted to visit detainees awaiting removal if the latter so request.’ Access of NGOs to detention centres varies in practice (see below).

The Refugee Council of Baden-Württemberg compiled the following information on counselling services in some facilities:[1]

  • Ingelheim, Rhineland-Palatinate: An ecumenical counselling centre has its own office in the facility with regular opening hours;
  • Hannover-Langenhagen, Lower Saxony: The Refugee Council of Lower Saxony offers advice regularly in a conference room in the facility.
  • Eichstätt, Bavaria, Hof and Erding, Bavaria: The Jesuit Refugee Service is offering consultation services regularly either in common rooms or in the rooms of the social services in the facility.[2]

An overview of existing detention facilities and support services is also available on the website of the activist group ‘No Border Assembly’.[3]

The facility at Pforzheim, Baden-Würtemberg, does not provide priests and other persons offering advice with a separate room. In August 2022 the inadequate conditions for chaplaincy were again highlighted by chaplains and priests. For example, there is still no extra room for pastoral care. A multi-functional room for counselling services and pastoral care is available as of January 2024.[4] However the room is not yet used for independent counselling by the Diakonie and Caritas due to unresolved questions of financing. Support is provided through visits to the centre by staff, which are not present in the centre every day,[5]

In addition, no church services can take place and there is no space for worship. Finally, unlike in normal prisons, priests are not allowed to enter detainees’ cells.[6] According to the catholic and the protestant priest working with detainees and imprisoned people in Pforzheim, this makes contact with detainees difficult in practice, especially since detainees are not informed adequately about the possibility to get in contact with them.[7]

Büren, North Rhine-Westphalia: The support group ‘Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft Büren’ reported in January 2018 that the general access to the detention centre, as well as the access to certain particular detainees, was ‘massively impeded’ by the authorities.[8] Visit restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic were in place until February 2023.[9] As of March 2024, visitors and detainees are still not allowed to touch, a restriction that was not in place prior the Covid-19 outbreak. Visits have to be announced one day in advance with the district government (Bezirksregierung) and only five visits can take place at the same time, according to the local support group. The support group is present in the facility once per week. One catholic and one protestant priest as well as one imam also regularly visit the facility. Detainees are handed a leaflet informing them that they can speak to the support group, which they have to request via the detention centre personnel. The support group then requests visits for the respective persons. If too many detainees request a visit for the same day, the centre management decides whose requests are passed on. NGOs have the right to bring in the documents of a person and a laptop but recently laptops with a built-in camera function have been banned, making the use of laptops practically impossible. Detainees can get one session of free legal advice, but access to lawyers is steered by the centre management.[10] Journalists are not allowed to speak to detainees.

Darmstadt-Eberstadt, Hesse: According to the law which sets out basic principles for the facility,[11] individuals are not allowed to use mobile phones with a camera function but should be allowed to make phone calls, receive and send letters, read books and papers, watch TV and listen to radio. However, they have to pay for these services themselves if costs arise. Visitors are allowed upon request by the detainees during visiting hours for a maximum of one hour and for a maximum of three visitors at a time,[12] while lawyers and consular representatives may visit at all times. The local activist and visitors group ‘Support PiA’ provides support through private visits and via telephone. In a 2023 report, the group criticises the fact that visits can only take place upon request by the detainees: in practice this means that if detainees do not have their own phone or otherwise access to contact details, they are not able to request visits including from family members.[13] In addition, the Diakonie provides counselling and support through individual visits.[14]

Hof, Bavaria: Detainees have a right to free worldwide phone calls of up to 30 minutes a day with a maximum of 10 persons and to a video phone service ‘comparable to Skype’. Visits are limited to maximum 60 minutes, but the number of visits per detainee is not limited. A maximum of three persons can visit at the same time for each detainee. The Jesuit Refugee Service, the association ‘Support for persons in detention Hof’ and the Refugee Law Clinic Regensburg provide counselling and support to detainees, but the government does not state how this is organised in practice.[15]

Eichstätt, Bavaria: Amnesty International volunteers and the Jesuit Refugee Service visit the detention centre. Detainees are informed when the NGOs are present in the facility through announcements through the intercom. Moreover, every person is given a mobile phone without camera upon arrival, and has an allowance of 30 minutes per day for calls with numbers notified to the management of the centre. Calls with lawyers are exempted from the 30-minute rule.[16]

Glückstadt, Schleswig-Holstein: Access for visitors and legal representatives is possible in the detention facility between 8 am and 12 pm and between 2 pm and 8 pm.[17] A support and visit group was formed in September 2021. While the Refugee Council Schleswig-Holstein also provided counselling in the detention facility when it opened, as of January 2024 no counselling is offered.[18] As of January 2024, there is no internal social counselling available anymore, which means that external and voluntary support is the only type of social and legal support provided (see Conditions in detention facilities).


Access to airport de facto detention facilities

Access to airport de facto detention facilities is also regulated by the relevant Federal State and is often difficult due to their location. At the ‘initial reception centre’ (Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung) of Frankfurt/Main Airport, for example, the centre is located in a restricted area of the airport cargo. The Church Refugee Service (Kirchlicher Flüchtlingsdienst am Flughafen) run by Diakonie is present in the facility and provides psychosocial assistance to asylum seekers in the airport procedure, as well as reaching out to lawyers depending on available capacity. Access to other NGOs remains difficult, however.

At the ‘combined transit and detention facility’ (Kombinierte Transit- und Abschiebungshafteinrichtung of Munich Airport, the Church Service (Kirchliche Dienste) has access but no permanent presence on the premises; staff of the service travel thereto from the airport terminal when necessary.[19]

At the ‘reception centre’ located in the airport of Berlin and Brandenburg (BER), internal guideline state that visits to detainees in custody pending removal are possible between 1 pm and 5 pm, upon their specific request. The Jesuit Refugee Service provides pastoral care on an individual basis and sometimes helps with contacting lawyers, but it is unknown how systematically detainees have access to or knowledge about this service.[20]




[1] Flüchtlingsrat Baden-Würtemberg, Misstände in der Abschiebehaft werden geleugnet, Stellungnahme des Flüchtlingsrats Baden-Württemberg zur Berichterstattung über die Abschiebehaft Pforzheim, 17 May 2019, available in German at:

[2] See also Jesuit Refugee service, Abschiebungshaft, available in German at:

[3] No border assembly, available in English at:

[4] Information provided by the Caritasverband Karlsruhe e. V., an organisation that offers counselling in the detention centre together with the Diakonie Rastatt (see for more information).

[5] Information provided by the Caritasverband Karlsruhe e. V., an organisation that offers counselling in the detention centre together with the Diakonie Rastatt (see for more information).

[6] SWR, ‘Vorwurf: Wenig Raum für Seelsorge im Pforzheimer Abschiebegefängnis’, 15 August 2022, available in German at:

[7] SWR, Vorwurf: Wenig Raum für Seelsorge im Pforzheimer Abschiebegefängnis, 15 August 2022, available in German at:

[8] Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft Büren, ‘Schwere Menschenrechtsverletzungen in der Abschiebehaft Büren‘, 24 January 2018, available in German at:

[9] Ministry for Children, Youth, Family, Equality, Refugees and Integration of North Rhine Westphalia, „Sachstandsbericht Unterbringungseinrichtung für Ausreisepflichtige (UfA) in Büren for the first quarter of 2023“, quarterly report available on the website of the Federal State parliament.

[10] Information obtained from the support group‘ Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft Büren‘ in March 2024.

[11] Official Gazette for the Federal State of Hesse, Gesetz über den Vollzug ausländerrechtlicher Freiheitsentziehungsmaßnahmen(VaFG), 18 December 2017, available at:

[12] Community for all, 4 Jahre Abschiebeknast Hessen, July 2023, available in German at:, 53.

[13] Community for all, 4 Jahre Abschiebeknast Hessen, July 2023, available in German at:, 54.

[14] Community for all, 4 Jahre Abschiebeknast Hessen, July 2023, available in German at:, 63-64.

[15] Bavarian Ministry of Justice, Einrichtung für Abschiebungshaft Hof, 02 January 2023, available in German at:

[16] ECRE, The AnkER centres Implications for asylum procedures, reception and return, April 2019, available at:

[17] Information provided by the legal advice and support group Abschiebehaftberatung Nord in April 2022, see

[18] Flüchtlingsrat Schleswig-Holstein, Beratungsangebot beim Flüchtlingsrat, available in German at:

[19] ECRE, Airport procedures in Germany Gaps in quality and compliance with guarantees, April 2019, available at:

[20] Flüchtlingsrat Brandenburg, Abschiebehaft am Flughafen BER, 22 May 2023, available in German at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation