Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 21/04/22


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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.

In addition, access was hampered by restrictions related to Covid-19 throughout 2020 and 2021. By way of example, the detention facility in Darmstadt-Eberstadt (Hesse) still allows for only one visitor at a time at the end of 2021 (see also below).[1]

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

In contrast, the facility at Pforzheim, Baden-Würtemberg, did not provide priests and other persons offering advice with a separate room. Therefore, visits had to take place in small visitor’s rooms (“visitor cells”). The regional government claimed that there was no separate room for “capacity reasons” and that this was common practice in detention centres. This statement was refuted by the Refugee Council based on the information provided above.

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.[3] The group reiterated its criticism in a statement to a parliamentary committee in November 2018.[4]  The group usually visits the detention centre on a weekly basis, but since March 2020 support has been provided via telephone only according to the group’s website[5] due to restrictions on visits which make adequate support and counselling impossible. The rules only allow three members of the group to visit and limit visiting times. This limitation, as well as rules requiring 4 metres of distance between detainees and visitors, also applied to other visits as of August 2020.[6]

Darmstadt-Eberstadt, Hesse: According to the law which sets out basic principles for the facility,[7] 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 during visiting hours for a maximum of one hour, while lawyers and consular representatives may visit at all times. The local activist and visitors group “Community for All” provides support through private visits and via telephone. In addition, there is one person offering external counselling for 10 hours per week. However, access for visitors has been restricted since the outbreak of Covid-19. As of end 2021, only one person was allowed to visit at a time, despite protective measures against Covid-19 being in place (such as the requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery and to wear a mask). According to the group, this makes the provision of advice very difficult since it is not possible to bring translators. During the pandemic, support was provided mainly via mobile phone and digital means.[8]  In addition, practical difficulties for family and civil society visits were reported by a local activist visitors group in 2021, such as denial of access even when appointments were made.[9]

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.[10]

Glückstadt, Schleswig-Holstein: Access for visitors and legal representatives is possible in the detention facility between 8 am and 7 pm, except for the lunch break hours (between 12 pm and 2 pm).[11]

A support and visit group was formed in September 2021.[12]

Access to airport detention facilities

Access to airport 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 “airport facility” (Flughafenunterkunft) 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.[13]




[1] Community for All, ‘Knastreport’, Newsletter Volume 2, April 2021. Available in German at

[2]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: An overview of existing detention facilities and support services is also available here:

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

[4] Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft Büren, ‘Stellungnahme zur Anhörung zum Abschiebungshaftvollzugsgesetz’, 7 November 2018, available in German at:

[5]  Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft Büren, ‘Die Betreuungsarbeit’, available in German at

[6], ‘Erinnern an Rachid Sbaai – Mahnwache 30.08. am Abschiebegefängnis Büren’, Press statement of “Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft Büren”, 28 August 2020, available in German at:

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

[8] Community for All, ‘Knastreport’, Newsletter Volume 5, December 2021. Available in German at

[9]  Community for All, ‘Knastreport’, Newsletter Volume 2, April 2021. Available in German at

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

[11] Information provided by the « Abschiebehaftberatung HH” on 15 April 2022,, see

[12], ‘Glückstadt: Ehrenamtliche Hilfe für Bewohner in Abschiebehaft‘, 15 September 2021, available in German at:

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