Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 22/05/23



The law allows lawyers, NGOs and UNHCR to access detention centres.[1] Detained asylum seekers are entitled to maintain contacts with UNHCR, attorneys, relatives and organisations dealing with asylum issues or granting assistance (directly and by using 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, direct contact with NGOs by foreigners who are detained and have not applied for international protection, cannot be restricted according to law.[4]

In practice until January 2022, NGOs could not visit the detention centre in Wędrzyn due to national security and safety reasons. Neither the members of families who were foreigners had access to this detention centre.[5]

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 the coronavirus situation in Poland until 28 February 2022.[6]

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 a lack of financial means as a result of the 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.[7] In 2022 situation has changed. NGOs visit detention centres regularly, funded from other sources of financing. On the other hand, there is no state-founded systemic legal assistance to foreigners granted by law.[8]

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. In 2021, however, persons not directly related to detainees faced issues accessing them, as border guards informed that the law does not allow it.

There are no limitations concerning the frequency of such visits. UNHCR Poland notes that they are not limited to 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, access to detention centres 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 BG 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, 2022 and 2023 NGOs, which provided psychological assistance started to face problems in accessing the detention centres, i.e., in Wędrzyn, Lesznowola, Biała Podlaska or Kętrzyn.

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

Visits from relatives or religious representatives are authorised. 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.[9] Non-scheduled visitors as a rule do not have the 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 for children).[10]

Unfortunately, not all detainees were able to maintain regular contact with people outside the centre in 2021 and 2022. Although there is no limitation in using cell phones (without a video recording system), the foreigners in the detention centre in Wędrzyn and Czerwony Bór faced problems with cell phone reception or did not have access to SIM cards and phones. Only in some detention centres, i.e. in Białystok and Lesznowola the BGs have several hundreds of substitute cell phones without a camera which they provide to foreigners in case they only have smartphones or SIM cards with no phone. 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 financial means. If the asylum applicant does not have money to buy a SIM card, there is a possibility of using the BG’s equipment but only in justified cases.

In 2021 and in 2022 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 sanctions 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.[11]

When deciding upon the application of either of these two sanctions, the BG Regional Commander takes into account the general behaviour of the detainee, the level of disobedience, cultural background, etc. In 2021, this sanction was used 6 times in Przemyśl for 7 days.[12]

In the detention centres of Białystok and Czerwony Bór, there were a total of 72 incidents reported, with 19 occurring in 2019, 21 in 2020, and 32 in 2021 (28 in the Białystok centre and 4 in the Czerwony Bór branch). These incidents primarily involved meal refusals/hunger protests and fights/beatings, which accounted for 41.7% and 34.7% of all incidents, respectively.

The Border Guard officers buy products (food and basic necessities) requested by detainees usually twice a week if the migrants have money in a deposit.[13] According to the NGOs, the current amount available for spending is insufficient. On the other hand, the detainees cannot receive any food or liquid things in packages 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] [Sytuacja cudzoziemców w ośrodkach strzeżonych w dobie kryzysu na granicy Polski i Białorusi Raport z wizytacji Krajowego Mechanizmu Prewencji Tortur, [Situation of foreigners in the guarded centres in times of crisis on the border of Poland and Belarus”, Report NPM, June 2022, available in Polish here:, 76.

[6] [Sytuacja cudzoziemców w ośrodkach strzeżonych w dobie kryzysu na granicy Polski i Białorusi Raport z wizytacji Krajowego Mechanizmu Prewencji Tortur, [Situation of foreigners in the guarded centres in times of crisis on the border of Poland and Belarus”, Report NPM, June 2022, available in Polish here:

[7] 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:

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

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

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

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

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

[13] Information provided by HFHR March 2023.

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