Contrary to 2017 (when 246 asylum seekers were detained in total), Border Guard did not collect the data on the number of asylum seekers detained in guarded centres in 2021. In general, 4052 foreigners were placed in detention centres in 2021, including 567 children (486 with parents and 81 unaccompanied children). At least 33 foreigners were released on the basis of health considerations in 2021. At the end of 2021, 1,737 migrants were detained, of whom 1,299 were asylum seekers. As of 1 February 2022, 1,652 foreigners were placed in detention centres, many of whom were children. The duration of detention was varied. Depending on the place of deprivation of liberty, it ranged from 52 days to over 5 months.
Until August 2021, there were 6 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 were placed in the detention centre in Kętrzyn.
Due to the situation at the Polish- Belarusian border, the number of detention centres increased from 6 to 9 and the number of places in detention centres increased from 628 to 2,308 at the end of 2021. In fact, in August 2021, new detention centres were opened in Czerwony Bór, Biała Podlaska and in Wędrzyn as a result of a cooperation between Border Guards with Head of the Office for Foreigners and Ministry of National Defence (in case of Wędrzyn). Two of the new detention centres had previously served as reception centres. Based on the agreement with the Head of the Office for Foreigners in July 2021, the Border Guards adapted the building of the reception centre for foreigners in Biała Podlaska (2 August) and in Czerwony Bór (branch of detention centre in Białystok) (12 August) for the needs of detention centres.
Additionally, foreigners (also families with children) were placed in an open space in the gymnasium (in Kętrzyn) and in containers added to the existing detention centres (Kętrzyn and Lesznowola).
Furthermore, Border Guard placed migrants directly stopped at the Polish-Belarusian border in two Border Guards stations (in Dubicze Cerkiewne and Połowce) called as “centres for foreigners’ registration” (Centrum Rejestracyjne Cudzoziemców).These facilities are kind of detention centres where foreigners did not have access to outside world as there was no access to Internet, computers or phones and did not have access to legal assistance as no one could meet with them. Moreover, the living conditions were critical, for example, foreigners were sleeping in one big room on the mattresses on the floor. Foreigners were accommodated there even for 3 -4 weeks.
In 2021 the profiles of the detention centres were changed a couple of times. As of February 2022, men are placed in Wędrzyn, Lesznowola and Krosno Odrzańskie. Biała Podlaska (2 buildings), Czerwony Bór, Białystok, Kętrzyn and Przemyśl are for families with children and single women. In the opinion of Commissioner for Human Rights the conditions in detentions centres were not always adapted to the changed profiles.
On 13 of August 2021 the new amendment was introduced to Ordinance of the Ministry of Interior and Administration of 24 April 2015 on the guarded centres and detention centres for foreigners which allows now to place foreigners in a room for foreigners or in a residential cell the area of which is not less than 2 m2 per foreigner:
– in the case of no vacancies in rooms for foreigners,
– for a specified period of time,
– not longer than 12 months.
This new regulation has caused detention centers to become overcrowded, in particular the Lesznowola, Przemyśl, Wędrzyn, Białystok and Kętrzyn detention centres. Due to the overcrowding in detention centres, the number of social assistants is insufficient in the detention centres. In practice it means that foreigners’ right to information on the current status of their proceedings is not respected and foreigners are not aware of their rights and obligations.
Foreigners are obliged to pay for their stay in a detention centre calculated on the basis of algorithm, set in the Polish law.
It is worth noting that asylum seekers from Syrian and Afghanistan, who cross the Polish-Belarusian border against the Polish regulations were often initially placed in detention even though Poland suspended deportations to these countries. Later on, they were released by the Head of the Office for Foreigners from detention centre, despite the fact that in many cases, courts had prolonged their stay there.
The statistics show that only a small number of migrants lodged asylum applications in the Border Guard stations located near the border with Belarus. Furthermore, according to the Head of the Office for Foreigners, all Iraqi citizens who applied for international protection in 2021 submitted their applications in detention centers for foreigners – after they have received a decision on return (mainly in Kętrzyn or Krosno Odrzańskie). According to NGOs, Border Guards at the border ignored the migrants’ requests for international protection. In practice it meant that the return procedures were immediately initiated and the migrants were placed in detention centre based on the Act on foreigners instead of Act on granting international protection in Poland. This practice also influenced the period of detention: instead of 6 months, they were detained for longer periods.
According to the Office for Foreigners, the asylum cases of asylum applicants placed in detention are prioritised but it does not mean that they are examined more quickly when the cases are complex. In practice it means that asylum seekers have only 3-7 days to present additional evidence in their case, before an asylum decision is made. The interview is conducted through videoconference in the presence of a psychologist and interpreter (e.g. in the detention centre in Kętrzyn). According to NGOs, psychologists and interpreters are available in the premises of the Head of the Office for Foreigners or in a different place and not in the centre where the individual is detained. Additionally, asylum seekers complain about poor quality of the videoconferencing, claiming that they could not hear what was being said.
In addition, NGOs claim that in the case of detained asylum seekers, the Refugee Board does not conduct evidentiary proceedings, meaning that they do not assess the grounds for applying for international protection. Additionally during the proceedings in second instance asylum seekers have only 3-7 days to present the final evidence in their case.
In 2021, the average time for the Refugee Board to issue a decision in appeal proceedings against refusal of international protection was 203 days for the cases which finished in 2021. The longest processing time in 2021 took 1,697 days (in 2020 it was 1355 days) and the shortest was 6 days. There were no cases (down from 5 in 2020) where the Refugee Board decided to hear the applicant (but the Refugee Board stresses that applicants were also asked for written statements), and there were no cases of hearing a witness in 2021 (just like in 2020).
At the end of February 2022 detention centre in Przemyśl was reorganized and foreigners placed there were transferred to detention centre in Biała Podlaska. The foreigners who crossed the border with Ukraine were placed there for id verification process. The Commissioner for Human Rights visited that facility and pointed out that the rooms for foreigners had metal bunk beds without mattresses but only with sleeping pads. The rooms were in disorder, and there was litter on the floor, including pieces of food. Moreover, foreigners complained about food, lack of access to fresh air due to the prohibition to leave the building, lack of information about the duration of the verification procedure, and problems with contacting with the relatives with whom they were separated.
 Information provided by Border Guard Headquarters, Sip, 18 February 2022.
 Information provided by Border Guards, different branches, January-March 2022.
 Information provided by Border Guard Headquarters to HFHR, 4 March 2022
 Information provided by Border Guards Headquarters, February 2022.
 To prevent confusion, Biała Podlaska detention centre closed for renovation in 2020. In August Border Guard took the charge of the Biała Podlaska reception centre and they reorganized it and opened there a detention centre.
 Information provided by SIP, April 2022
 Previously, the minimum was 4 m2.
 Information provided by Border Guards Headquarters to SIP, February 2022.
 Information provided by Nomada Association and Halina Niec Legal Aid Centre, March 2022.
 Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2022.
 Information provided by Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, 21 February 2022.
 Information provided by Rule of Law Institute, 20 January 2020.
 Information provided by Refugee Board, 21January 2022.