Conditions in detention facilities

Poland

Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 16/04/21

Author

Independent

The Law on Foreigners contains a section on detention conditions, rights and obligations of foreigners.[1] Some practices relating to the functioning of the centres have now been framed into the legal provisions. Below we present how the conditions are in practice.

Overall conditions

Six centres (Białystok, Kętrzyn, Biała Podlaska, Przemyśl, Lesznowola, and Krosno Odrzańskie) are relatively new and in good condition (they were built after 2008), Krosno Odrzańskie, Białystok and Lesznowola, Przemyśl, Biała Podlaska have been renovated in recent years. The guarded centre in Białystok was renovated until the end of 2018 and the renovation will resume in 2021. In addition, the guarded centre in Przemyśl and Biała Podlaska are renovated and the new premises for families with children are to be built in guarded centre in Lesznowola in 2021.

In Krosno Odrzańskie where only men are placed, foreigners stay in eight, six or four-bed rooms.[2] In Lesznowola rooms have adequate access to natural light and double rooms measure 14 m2 each. In Białystok rooms are well -lit and ventilated.[3]

The main equipment in a room consists of beds, small wardrobes and a small table. In Lesznowola there is a television in each room (also in Krosno Odrzańskie), a room for preparing meals on their own, laundry, drying room, gym and outdoor pitch. If people placed in the centres cannot have all their belongings in their room, they have to place them in external storage space in the centre. Some of their belongings are also placed there for safety reasons and can be accessed only upon request. A sufficient space between beds is provided. As for privacy matters, the rooms cannot be locked at night ).[4]

Before the admission to the guarded centre and in situations justified on grounds of safety and order, foreigners are subject to detail two-stage checks. i.e. from the waist up and after dressing up from the waist down.[5]

Foreigners are subject to constant monitoring, which is disproportionate to their situation and applied in the penitentiary system only to particularly dangerous prisoners.

In some detention centres, the food is provided by external providers, while in others it is prepared in the centres (e.g. in Bialystok). Additionally, detainees have access to the microwave (e.g. in Bialystok) or a separate place where they can prepare food by themselves (Lesznowola). There are several specific diets e.g., vegetarian, vegan, adapted to Muslims, adapted to pregnant or breastfeeding women or diabetics. Other diets can be respected on prescription of the physician.[6]

Activities and education

In all guarded centres there is a sport and recreation space.[7] Free time outside is no longer strictly limited. The open-air space is of adequate size and sufficient recreational facilities are provided (e.g. playing field for volleyball or basketball, in Białystok there is an open-air gym. In practice the detainees have the possibility to take part in outdoor exercises on a regular basis. However, some foreigners interviewed by the CPT delegation in the guarded centre in Bialystok did not know of this free access.[8] Detainees can watch television without any limitations, even until late at night.[9] According to the CPT, the management of guarded centres in Lesznowola and Białystok should enlarge the offer of organised activities.

In all centres there is access to the internet and in all of them there are computers which can be used by detainees. It is worth noting that foreigners are under constant supervision of the Border Guard officer who additionally records the personal data and the exact time of their use of internet.[10] Furthermore, the Border Guard Chief Commander ordered on 27 January 2017 the blocking of sites with terrorist-related and extremist content, social media and instant messaging platforms. New technologies such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) are also forbidden for security reasons despite the fact that the CPT recommended this kind of communication to be available for use by the foreigners in detention centres.[11] Clearance of the internet usage was also introduced[12] but on the other hand, foreigners placed in detention centres in Białystok, Krosno Odrzańskie, Przemyśl and Lesznowola have a possibility to use Skype a day after signing up for the list.

The detainees have access to reading and leisure materials. There are libraries – with a number of books and newspapers in several languages – Russian, English, and French. New books or newspapers, dictionaries, handbooks, maps and other materials were provided to all libraries in 2019. They also have popular games to play (e.g. chess, cards). Concerts and sport competitions are organised for adults and children in Kętrzyn. On the other hand, according to UNHCR, foreigners complained that additional activities are rarely organised and that they feel bored.

Detention centres provide rooms for religious practices.

In all centres, in the corridors of each floor there are boards which provide information in at least 1 or 2 main foreign languages (Russian and/or English). They provide information on the asylum applicants’ rights and/or the rules of stay in the detention centre, meal times, and contact details of NGOs, UNHCR and – depending on the centre – on access to the doctor and psychologist.

In all centres each asylum applicant and irregular migrant has an officer appointed to their case with a scheduled meeting to discuss their case. The rules of stay in the detention centres are available in 17 languages: Arabic, English, Ukrainian, Russian, French, Armenian, Chinese, Georgian, Hindi, Spanish, Mongolian, Persian, Turkish, Farsi, Urdu, Bengali and Vietnamese.[13] Not all the language versions are displayed, as the vast majority of asylum seekers are Russian-speaking. Depending on the centre they are available on each floor of the detention centre or in the common-rooms, etc.

Children staying in the guarded centres are – like all other children staying on the territory of Poland – subject to obligatory education until they are 18. However, this obligation, set in the Polish Constitution, is not fulfilled in the case of children staying in guarded centres.[14] None of the children staying there regularly attends school. Schools near the detention centres in Kętrzyn and Biała Podlaska delegate teachers to work in detention facilities. Special classrooms are prepared in these centres. This is the result of agreements between the Border Guard, educational institutions and local authorities.[15]

Due to COVID-19, children implement schooling obligation on-line on the same terms as Polish pupils.

Moreover, educational departments in guarded centres organise additional classes for children, e.g., compensatory classes and activities for adults on e.g. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Refugee day.[16]

Special needs and health care in detention

According to the law, all detainees have access to regular health care.[17] In all centres, medical staff are present and working, there is at least one physician and one nurse, but there are often more. Nurses are present on a daily basis from 7.30 a.m. till 9.30 p.m. In case of an emergency or the need for a specialist (e.g. gynaecologist), detainees are transferred to hospitals or clinics. As of March 2018, SG officers trained in first aid should be present during night shifts in all guarded centers. The management of all detention centres was also obliged to make sure that there will be a physician in the center every day of the week.

In September 2015, the Border Guard prepared a document entitled “Rules of SG proceedings with foreigners who need special treatment (algorithm)” because there is no definition of persons who need special treatment and there are no methods for their identification set out in law. The algorithm consists of: (i) a definition of foreigners who are in need of special treatment, (ii) a list of persons involved in identification, (iii) a set of solutions which simplify identification, (iv) a procedure which should be implemented before a foreigner is placed in detention centre and (v) a procedure when a foreigner is already in detention. However, early identification of victims of torture and violence is not carried out during the preliminary examination of a foreigner on admission in practice. This document was modified in June 2019, based on merely internal consultation at Border Guards. In the opinion of SIP, still this document needs to be improved.[18]

In the opinion of the Commissioner for Human Rights,[19] and the Commissioner for Child Rights,[20] the algorithm used by Border Guard to identify victims of violence is inconsistent with Polish law, the Istanbul Protocol and other international standards. This algorithm does not allow for the immediate release of foreigners who are alleged victims of violence from the guarded centre. According to the Commissioner for Child Rights, the available treatment and therapy in the detention centre for identified victims of torture only exacerbate their mental trauma. The Commissioner called on the Minister of Interior and Administration to oblige the SG to develop new set of rules regarding foreigners whose mental state demonstrates that they were violence victims.[21]

According to the HFHR, the Polish authorities (SG and courts on own motion) do not identify victims of violence in an effective way. Such identification should be done at the earliest possible stage while deciding on whether the person should be placed in detention. Additionally, the SG and courts should on their own motion exclude the use of detention. Asylum seekers who in their asylum application declare that they were torture victims, are in practice sometimes placed in detention centres. Moreover, some courts placed victims in detention centres stating that there is no objection to placing a victim in detention because they will have access to psychological assistance in the guarded centre. The same opinion is presented in the SG guidelines, according to which, a foreigner will not be released if a psychological assistance can be provided in the guarded centre.[22]

There is also access to psychological care. In all detention centres, information on the availability of medical and psychological care is displayed on boards in the corridors and on the psychologist’s office door. Foreigners are also informed about psychological assistance during the first meeting with their assistant in detention centre. [23]

In Krosno external psychologist is present only for 4 hours per week, still is not trained in the Istanbul Protocol and he does not run a therapy for foreigners.[24]

In Przemyśl, an external psychologist for foreigners is available 20 hours a week. The psychologists are not trained in the Istanbul Protocol and do not run a therapy for foreigners.

Consultant psychologist visit the guarded centre in Lesznowola only one day.[25] Consultations are provided only in English and Russian. On the other hand, in the past the Commissioner for Human Rights reported lots of irregularities in psychological assistance and underlined that the number, the frequency and the description of the consultations showed that these consultations only consisted of preliminary interviews and diagnosis. Long-term psychological support was not provided. Additionally, the Commissioner pointed out that the fact there was only one psychologist limits the availability of psychological support. There is a high risk that this psychologist will not be available when her support during a foreigner’s mental crisis is needed and there will be no one who could substitute her and provide psychological assistance. Moreover, foreigners should have the possibility to choose a psychologist. Otherwise a detainee who is unable to trust an available psychologist, will not have access to effective psychological support.

In 2020 in guarded centre in Kętrzyn, the psychologist, Border Guard officer was available 5 days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., additional in 2020 external psychologist was hired.

In Bialystok one psychologist was Border Guard officer and hired full time – and external consultant available part time (8 hours, three times a week). In 2020 foreigners could make an appointment by themselves, and visit psychologist whenever they needed. The duty hours were placed on the door of the consultation room and on each floor.

Three psychologists are hired in Biała Podlaska, two (man and woman) as staff members of Border Guards (available from Monday till Saturday from 8.00 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and one as an external expert (available 4 hours a week).

 

 

[1] Articles 410-427 Law on Foreigners.

[2] Commissioner for Human Rights, Wyciąg Strzeżony Ośrodek dla Cudzoziemców w Krośnie Odrzańskim, 30 January 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2F2ptCr.

[3] CPT Report 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2HVZItc, 24.

[4] CPT Report 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2HVZItc, 24.

[5] Information provided by Border Guard, 5 February 2021.              

[6] Commissioner for Human Rights, Wyciąg Strzeżony Ośrodek dla Cudzoziemców w Przemyślu, 7 February 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2EXlR4y.

[7] Paras 2 and 9 Regulation on detention centres.

[8]  CPT Report 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2HVZItc, 24.

[9]  Information provided by the Border Guard, 18 August 2015.

[10] Commissioner for Human Rights, Wyciąg Strzeżony Ośrodek dla Cudzoziemców w Krośnie Odrzańskim, 30 January 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2F2ptCr.

[11]CPT Report 2018, 28; available at: https://bit.ly/2HVZItc. See also Commissioner for Human Rights, Wyciąg Strzeżony Ośrodek dla Cudzoziemców w Białej Podlaskiej, 7 January 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2TBZ3OY.

[12]  Information provided by the Border Guard, 14 and 25 January 2019.

[13]  Information provided by the Border Guard, 18 August 2015.

[14] HFHR and Association for Legal Intervention, Wciąż za kratami, 2014, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/1JBxxXm, 46.

[15]Regulation on education foreigners and Polish citizens who were learning abroad, 23 August 2017, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2XkPupP.

[16] Commissioner for Child Rights, INFORMACJA O WYNIKACH WIZYTACJI Strzeżonego Ośrodka dla Cudzoziemców w Kętrzynie, przeprowadzonej w dniu 26 lipca 2018 r.; available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2EmgyOi.

[17]  Articles 415(1)(5) and 417 Law on Foreigners.

[18]  SIP, Annual Report 2019, April 2020, available in Polish at: https://bit.ly/3sIooIp.

[19]  Commissioner for Human Rights, Wystąpienie do Komendanta Głównego Straży Granicznej w sprawie identyfikacji ofiar tortur, 4 July 2017, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2SvtzZJ.

[20] Commissioner for Child Rights, Wystapienie do Ministra spraw Wewnętrznych, 5 September 2018, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2GAvObC.

[21]  Ibid.

[22] HFHR, Rights of persons deprived of liberty-fundamental legal and practical issues. HFHR perspective, July 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2SktNaF.

[23] Commissioner for Human Rights, Wyciąg Strzeżony Ośrodek dla Cudzoziemców w Kętrzynie, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2sUwCns.

[24] Border Guard Commander, Krosno Odrzańskie, information, 3 February 2021.

[25]  Information provided by Border Guards in Lesznowola, 27 February 2020.

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