There are two types of detention centres in Poland, both used for detaining asylum seekers and foreigners subject to return procedures, namely guarded centres and so-called rigorous detention centres.
All detention centres are for migration-related purposes and the Border Guard is in charge of their management. Asylum seekers are never placed in regular prisons with ordinary prisoners but are detained together with migrants in an irregular situation in a guarded centre or rigorous detention centre. There is no special facility where only asylum seekers are detained.
The design and layout of some of the centres create the impression of a very prison-like environment: thick walls, bars in the windows (Krosno until 2025, Białystok, Przemyśl) and on the corridors. In addition, all centres are surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire.
Until August 2021, there were 6 guarded detention centres in Poland, which were generally profiled according to demographics: Lesznowola, Białystok, Przemyśl, and Krosno Odrzańskie were for men. Women, married couples, and families with children were placed in Kętrzyn, Biała Podlaska (closed for renovation) and Przemyśl. Unaccompanied children are placed in the detention centre in Kętrzyn.
Due to the situation at the Polish- Belarusian border, the number of guarded detention centres increased up to 9 and the number of places there increased up to 2,256 (compared to 595 in 2020, 494 in 2019, 590 in 2018 and 608 in 2017).
Detention centres for foreigners are located in:
|Capacity and occupancy of detention centres: –2019 – 2021|
|Centre||Maximum capacity in 2020||Occupancy end 2019||Occupancy end 2020||Maximum capacity in 2021||Occupancy end 2021|
|Biała Podlaska (adopted open centre)||200||152|
Przemyśl (Arrest for Foreigners)
Source: Border Guard, 1 February 2022, 29 March 2022
The profiles of detention centres were changed a couple of times. Currently, as of February 2022 in four detention centres (Wędrzyn, Krosno Odrzańskie, Lesznowola, Białystok) only men are held and in (Białystok, Czerwony Bór, Kętrzyn, Biała Podlaska, Przemyśl) only families and single women are detained. Families are placed together in one room or in containers in Kętrzyn but due to overcrowding two families are placed in one container which violates their right to privacy. In detention centre in Kętrzyn there is also a separate part for unaccompanied irregular migrant children and 2 places (1 room) for individuals with a certificate of disability.
Generally, single men were placed in rooms according to their nationality or preferences, except for Wędrzyn. According to Border Guards, there is a possibility to change a room on a foreigner’s justified demand and availability of the rooms.
The Polish authorities decided to remove bars in the windows in some detention centres and installed special secure windows in Lesznowola, Kętrzyn and in Biała Podlaska (in a reopened detention centre).
“Rigorous detention centres” (areszt dla cudzoziemców)
The term, literally translated as “arrests for foreigners”, replaced that of “pre-removal centres” as of 1 May 2014. These facilities impose more rigorous conditions of detention than guarded centres. Until December 2012 there were 5 such centres. Currently, there is centre with a capacity of 37 in Przemyśl for men and women, which is a single unit with a separate entrance. In February 2022, 30 foreigners were placed in the Przemyśl arrest for foreigners and 142 in total in 2021.
An asylum seeker can be placed in a more rigorous detention centre for foreigners only if there is a risk that they will not obey the rules in force in a guarded centre or the applicant has already disobeyed these rules. These detention centres are more prison-like than guarded centres. An asylum seeker placed in such a centre cannot freely move around (he or she is closed in the ward), cannot go outside for a walk whenever he or she wants except for two hours per day etc. The foreigners have a limited access to internet and to the phone.
According to the Commissioner for Human Rights, sanitary and living conditions are sufficient and meeting the provisions of the law in this respect. Foreigners have a right to use two walking yards, twice a day by one hour. On the other hand, in the opinion of the representatives of the Commissioner, health condition of foreigners placed in this facility was justifying their release from detention. Furthermore, there were, among others, 6 citizens of Afghanistan, who were not placed in detention centre for foreigners before. 
 In Bialystok, in the past there was also an arrest for foreigners which was closed as there were not so many “dangerous migrants. Since August this arrest was reopened for single men as a temporary place of detention for single men stopped at the border. It means that migrants are placed there for some weeks and transported to men detention centres.
 Information provided by the Border Guard, 14 and 25 January 2019; Article 414(4) Law on Foreigners.
 Information provided by the Border Guard, 18 January 2020.
 Information provided by Border Guard, 5 February 2021.
 Order No 23 of the Ministry of Interior of 1 July 2014 on the designation of areas in which the arrest for foreigners is executed.
 Information provided by the Border Guard, 14 and 25 January 2019.
 Information provided by Association for Legal Intervention, February 2021.
 Information provided by Border Guards for SIP, 18 February 2022.
 Article 88a(2) Law on Protection.
 Centrum Pomocy Prawnej im. Haliny Nieć, K. Przybysławska (Ed.), Monitoring of Forced Returns from Poland July 2014-June 2015, 35-36.