Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 26/05/22



The law allows lawyers, NGOs and UNHCR to have access to detention centres.[1] Detained asylum seekers are entitled to maintain contact with UNHCR, attorney, relatives and organisations dealing with asylum issues or granting assistance (directly and by means of correspondence and telephone calls). Direct contact with UNHCR and organisations can be limited or restricted completely by the head of the detention centre if it is necessary to ensure safety and public order or to observe the rules of stay in the detention centre. The decision of the head of the centre is final.[2] The Head of the Office for Foreigners and UNHCR should be informed about it.[3] On the other hand, the direct contact with NGO by foreigners who are detained and have not applied for international protection, cannot be restricted according to law.[4]

In practice until January 2022, NGO could not visit detention centre in Wędrzyn due to national security and safety reasons.

Due to the coronavirus situation, all visits in detention centres were suspended from October 2020 to 21 May 2021 but foreigners could meet with lawyers and members of their family and friends remotely via Skype. The visits were suspended also in individual detention centres due to quarantine. At the end of January 2022 all personal visits were again suspended due to coronavirus situation in Poland till 28 February 2022.

NGOs provided legal assistance, but unfortunately not on a regular basis in 2021. NGOs had to narrow their assistance, including legal assistance, in the detention centres, due to lack of financial means as a result of delay in the implementation of AMIF; delay in the announcement of the call for proposals and delay in publishing the results co-financed by AMIF.[5] Moreover, there is no systemic legal assistance to foreigners granted by law.[6]

As a general rule, NGOs have to ask for the consent of a manager of the detention centre to meet with a specific asylum seeker. Lawyers, family members and relatives or NGOs can meet with a detainee during visiting hours. Although in 2021 the unrelated persons faced problems with meeting detained foreigners as border guards informed that law does not allow them to meet with them.

There are no limitations concerning the frequency of such visits. UNHCR Poland notes that they are not limited in accessing detention centres. The journalists and politicians have access to detention centres under general rules, they have to ask for the consent of the SG unit managing the detention centre. On the other hand, the access to detention centre in Wędrzyn was more restricted than to other centres.

In practice, NGOs which want to meet with more than one or with unspecified asylum seekers, monitor conditions in a detention centre etc. must ask the SG Commander in Chief in writing for permission to visit a detention centre. Since 2017 permission is authorized by the Border Guard Headquarters. Nevertheless, visits are generally not limited to visiting hours. On the other hand, in 2021 and 2022 (as of April) NGOs, which provided psychological assistance started to face problems in accessing the detention centres, i.e., in Wędrzyn, Lesznowola or Kętrzyn.

Furthermore, in 2021 NGOs faced lots of problems in contacting the detainees in Wędrzyn as they have no or restricted access to Internet and phones.

Visits from relatives or religious representatives are authorized. Any visit should not last more than 90 minutes, but it can be prolonged in justified cases by the manager of the centre. Two adults have a right to take part in the meeting. The number of children is not limited.[7] Non-scheduled visitors as a rule do not have a possibility to meet with the asylum applicant (but the manager of the detention centre can make exceptions from the above-mentioned rules, especially when it is needed to maintain family ties and care over a children).[8]

Unfortunately, not all detainees were able to maintain regular contact with people outside the centre in 2021. Although there is no limitation in using cell phones (without video recording system), the foreigners in detention centre in Wędrzyn and Czerwony Bór faced problems in cell phone range or did not have access to the SIM cards and phones. Only in some detention centre, i.e. in Białystok and Lesznowola the SG’s have several hundreds of substitute cell phones without a camera which they provide to foreigners in case they only have smartphones. The cell phones are handed over for the whole day for free. On the other hand, detainees themselves pay for the calls if they have a financial means. If the asylum applicant does not have money to buy a SIM card, there is a possibility of using the SG’s equipment in justifiable cases.

in 2021 the detainees in detention centres especially in Wędrzyn, Lesznowola, Czerwony Bór had no or restricted access to the internet and Skype. In Wędrzyn detention centre the migrants could use computers 30 minutes every 3 days. There were also brakes in Internet access. The foreigners in Lesznowola, Wędrzyn and Kętrzyn detention centre complained regularly that they do not have access to scanner or printer.

The Law on Foreigners foresees a legal possibility to impose sanction on a detainee who does not obey the rules in the detention centre. There are two possibilities: banning participation in sport and leisure activities (except for using the library); or banning the purchase of food and cigarettes from outside the centre.[9]

When deciding upon the application of either of these two sanctions, the SG Regional Commander takes into account the general behaviour of the detainee, the level of disobedience, cultural background, etc. Before adopting the law, such punishments were applied in practice without any legal basis. In 2021, such punishment was used 6 times in Przemyśl for 7 days.[10]

The Border Guard officers go and do shopping for detainees usually twice a week. On the other hand, the detainees cannot receive any food or liquid things in packets from other people.




[1] Article 415(1)(2), (3) and (19) Law on Foreigners and Article 89a(1)(2) Law on Protection.

[2] According to the Law on Protection, it will be a possibility only to limit such contact.  

[3] Article 89a(1) and (2) Law on Protection.

[4] Article 415(1a) Law on Foreigners.

[5] W Klaus, E Ostaszewska-Żuk and M Szczepanik, The role of European Funds in supporting the integration of migrants in Poland, September 2017, available at:

[6] Foreigners in administrative detention. Results of the KMPT monitoring in guarded centres for foreigners in Poland, March 2021, available in Polish at

[7] Para 21 of the Rules of foreigners’ stay in guarded centre and arrest for foreigners (Annex to the Regulation on detention centres).

[8] Para 23 of the Rules of foreigners’ stay in guarded centre and arrest for foreigners (Annex to the Regulation on detention centres).

[9] Article 421(2) Law on Foreigners.

[10] Information provided by the Border Guard in Przemyśl, 2022.

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