Section 62a of the Residence Act states: “Upon application, staff of relevant support and assistance organisations shall be permitted to visit detainees awaiting deportation if the latter so request.” Access of NGOs to detention centres varies in practice.
The Refugee Council of Baden-Württemberg has compiled the following information on counselling services in some facilities:
- Ingelheim, Rhineland-Palatinate: An ecumenical counselling center 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 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.
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. The group reiterated its criticism in a statement to a parliamentary committee in November 2018.
Darmstadt-Eberstadt, Hesse: According to the law which sets out basic principles for the facility, 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, while lawyers and consular representatives may visit at all times.
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.
Munich Airport Hangar 3, Bavaria: The Munich Refugee Council has asked for permission to access the facilities on a weekly basis, but permission has not been granted yet. If detainees do not have a lawyer and want one, they can contact a lawyer by phone. There are 3 phones available for the detainees, which they can use for free for 30 minutes per day. However, no lists of lawyers who can be contacted seem to be available to the detainees. Lawyers can access the facility but have to announce their arrival in advance.
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.
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.
 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: https://bit.ly/3dVHgfF.
 Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft Büren, ‘Stellungnahme zur Anhörung zum Abschiebungshaftvollzugsgesetz’, 7 November 2018, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2UmjGiG.
 Official Gazette for the Federal State of Hesse, Gesetz über den Vollzug ausländerrechtlicher Freiheitsentziehungsmaßnahmen(VaFG), 18 December 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2Cael74.