Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 16/04/21



The law allows lawyers, NGOs and UNHCR to have access to detention centres.[1] Detained asylum seekers are entitled to maintain contact with UNHCR and organisations dealing with asylum issues or granting legal 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] This provision is not used in practice. NGOs provide legal assistance, but unfortunately not on a regular basis. 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.[4]

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 friends, or NGOs can meet with a detainee during visiting hours. There are no limitations concerning the frequency of such visits. UNHCR Poland notes that they are not limited in accessing detention centres. The media 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.

In practice, NGOs who 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 authorised by the Border Guard Headquarters. Nevertheless, visits are generally not limited to visiting hours. NGOs generally do not face problems in accessing the centres. In 2020 NGOs were also permitted to contact detainees remotely by videoconferencing due to coronavirus situation.[5]

Visits from relatives, friends 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.[6] 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).[7] Due to the coronavirus situation, all visits were suspended but foreigners could meet with members of their family and friends via Skype .

Detainees are able to maintain regular contact with people outside the centre. There is no limitation in using cell phones (without audio- and video recording system). 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. Detainees themselves pay for the calls. There are some problems to order a phone card and foreigners use phone card which were bought in other EU countries. The Border Guard officers go and do shopping for detainees usually twice a week. If the asylum applicant does not have money to buy a telephone card, there is a possibility of using the SG’s equipment in justifiable cases. The detainees have also access to the internet and Skype in all detention centres.

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.[8]

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 2020, such punishment was used 2 times in Przemyśl for 7 days.[9].

[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]  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:

[5] M.Jaźwińska, Dostęp do pomocy prawnej w strzeżonych ośrodkach dla cudzoziemców [in] Legal Intervention Association SIP w działaniu. Prawa cudzoziemców w Polsce w 2018 r., May 2019, available (in Polish) at:, 44.

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

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

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

[9] Information provided by the Border Guard in Przemyśl, 27 January 2021.

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