The Border Guard Headquarters does not collect the total number of asylum seekers detained in guarded centres, but at the beginning of 2022 1,349 asylum seekers were in detention centres. Additionally, some of the local branches of Border Guards stated that there were:
- in Biała Podlaska – 270 asylum seekers;
- in Lesznowola – 263 asylum seekers ;
- in Krosno Odrzańskie and Wędrzyn 683 asylum seekers were placed;
- in Kętrzyn – 214 asylum seekers in total were detained in 2022.
In January 2023, 468 children out of 1,349 foreigners were placed in detention centres.
The duration of detention varied. Depending on the place of deprivation of liberty, it ranged from 52 days to over 17 months.
Until August 2021, there were 6 detention centres in Poland, where people were generally detained according to demographics: Lesznowola, Białystok, Przemyśl, and Krosno Odrzańskie were for men. Women, married couples, and families with children were placed in Kętrzyn and Przemyśl, while Biała Podlaska was closed for renovation. 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, the Head of the Office for Foreigners and the 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 the detention centre in Białystok) (12 August) for the needs of detention centres.
In June 2022 – Biała Podlaska detention centre which was placed in the former open centre, was closed. In August 2022 Border Guards closed the detention centre in Czerwony Bór and in Wędrzyn.
As of April 2023, there are 6 detention centres but their capacity raised and their profiles were changed once again. Families with children are placed only in Biała Podlaska and the Kętrzyn detention centre will be only for single men.
Additionally, foreigners (also families with children) were placed in 2021 in an open space in the gymnasium (in Kętrzyn) and in containers added to the existing detention centres (Kętrzyn and Lesznowola).
Furthermore, the Border Guard placed migrants directly stopped at the Polish-Belarusian border in two of its stations (in Dubicze Cerkiewne and Połowce), defined as “centres for foreigners’ registration” (Centrum Rejestracyjne Cudzoziemców). These facilities are very similar to detention centres, as the individuals held in such facilities did not have access to the Internet, computers or phones. Additionally, they could not access legal assistance, as they were left without any possibility to communicate with the outside world or leave these premises at any time. 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 and in 2022 the profiles of the detention centres were changed several times. In 2022, men were placed in Białystok, Lesznowola, Wędrzyn and Krosno Odrzańskie. Biała Podlaska, Czerwony Bór, Lesznowola, Białystok, and Kętrzyn were for families with children and single women. In practice, it means that it is not possible to estimate the length of the detention of the foreigners who were for example in two or more detention centres as the detention centres have separate registration systems. In the opinion of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the conditions in detention centres were not always adapted to the changed profiles.
On 13 August 2021, a new amendment was introduced to the 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 sqm 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 in 2021 and in 2022. Since 25 April 2022, migrants placed in detention centres in Biała Podlaska, Białystok, Czerwony Bór and in Kętrzyn had at least 4 sqm per person. The detention centre in Wędrzyn returned to 4 sqm on 6 June 2022. In the case of detention centres for men, the area per foreigner was reduced to a minimum, depending on the needs. In the Lesznowola detention centre, there was no less than 3 sqm per migrant, but since 21 October 2022, there was no less than 2 sqm of surface area per migrant.  In Przemyśl, from 1 January 2022 to 26 July 2022 and from 21 October up to 10 March 2023 surface area per migrant was no less than 2 sqm.
According to National Prevention Mechanism, noted that in the period from 30 June to the end of December 2021, the capacity of detention centres increased more than fourfold. This indicates a systemic preference for increasing the capacity of detention centres rather than utilizing alternative measures to detention. What is more, in Krosno and in Wędrzyn detention centre the actual number of foreigners exceeded the capacity of the detention centre, and the actual area in some living rooms per foreigner was less than 2 sqm in Wędrzyn.
Due to the overcrowding in detention centres, the number of social assistants was insufficient. In practice, it means that migrants’ right to information on the current status of their proceedings was not respected and foreigners are not aware of their rights and obligations. Additionally, migrants did not have access to leisure activities.
Foreigners are obliged to pay for their stay in a detention centre calculated on the basis of an algorithm, set in the Polish law.
It is worth noting that asylum seekers from Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan who crossed 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.
According to NGOs, Border Guards at the border ignored migrants’ requests for international protection. In practice, it meant that the return procedures were immediately initiated and the migrants were placed in detention centres based on the Act on foreigners instead of the 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 migrants placed in detention are prioritised but it does not mean that they are examined more quickly. In practice, it means that asylum seekers have only 7 days to present additional evidence in their case, before an asylum decision is made, which can be very difficult to provide as the asylum seekers have a limited access to the internet and no access to social apps as Messenger or WhatsApp.
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 on 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.
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.
In 2022, the average time for the Refugee Board to issue a decision in appeal proceedings against refusal of international protection was 127 days for the cases which finished in 2022. The longest processing time in 2022 took 1445 (in 2021 -1,697 days (in 2020 it was 1355 days) and the shortest was 1 day. There were two 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 2022 (just like in 2020 and in 2021).
In the period 2019-2021, coercive measures against migrants were used 60 times in Białystok and Czerwony Bór. Additionally, 72 extraordinary events were recorded which concerned hunger protests and fights/beatings, which accounted for 41.7% and 34.7% of all events, respectively.
In Krosno Odrzańskie in 2022 direct coercive measures were used against the migrants: physical force – 11 times, handcuffs – 44 times and an isolation room – 10 times. In Biała Podlaska – 3 times these measures were used. In Kętrzyn there were 6 fights reported among the foreigners – and 72 coercive measures were used. In Przemyśl, these measures were used 36 times and twice in Kętrzyn. In April 2023, there was a case of the death of a Syrian man in the detention centre. Ombudsman Office investigated the use of a direct coercive measure – an electric stun gun against a foreigner placed there. An investigation has already been launched in this case for exceeding authority.
At the end of February 2022, the detention centre in Przemyśl was reorganized and migrants placed there were transferred to the detention centre in Biała Podlaska. The foreigners who crossed the border with Ukraine were initially placed there for the 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.
 Letter of Border Guards Headquarters 25 January 2023.
 Letter of Border Guards in Biała Podlaska, 8 March 2023.
 Letter of Border Guards in Lesznowola, 2023
 Letter of Border Guards in Krosno Odrzańskie, 3 March 2023.
 Letter of Border Guards in Kętrzyn, 9 March 2023.
 Letter of Border Guards Headquaters, 25 January 2023.
 Poland: Cruelty Not Compassion, At Europe’s Other Borders, April 2022, available in English here: https://bit.ly/3mOh2FV, Information from different branches of Border Guards, information form HFHR, March 2023
 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.
 BG Headquarters, 25 January 2023.
 Information provided by HFHR March 2023.
 Information provided by SIP, April 202, Sip w działaniu, Sip report for 2021, available in Polish: https://bit.ly/3oAq2ia.
 Commissioner for Human Rights, Letter to the Regional Courts, 25 January 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3HnQZJL. [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: https://bit.ly/3URYZek.
 Previously, the minimum was 4 sqm.
 BG in Kętrzyn 9 March 2023: in the period January-April there was no less than 2 sqr meters of surface area per migrant.
 Information provided by Border Guards Headquarters to SIP, February 2022 and 17 January 2023; Preparation of state bodies in case of a mass influx of foreigners to Poland, Supreme Audit Office, NIK, Przygotowanie organów państwa na wypadek masowego napływu cudzoziemców do Polski, available in Polish: https://bit.ly/3mWDvQY, Situation of foreigners in the centres guarded in times of crisis on the border of Poland and Belarus, available in Polish here: https://bit.ly/3URYZek.
 Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union, 2022 available in English here: https://euaa.europa.eu/publications/asylum-report-2022, 179.
 Information provided by Border Guard Headquarters, 17 January 2023, Kętrzyn 9 March 2023.
 BG in Lesznowola, 7 March 2023.
 BG in Przemyśl, 10 March 2023.
 [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: https://bit.ly/3URYZek.
 [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: https://bit.ly/3URYZek, 71.
 Commissioner for Human Rights, visit in detention centre in Wędrzyn in October, available at https://bit.ly/3HrbNQJ. Preparation of state bodies in case of a mass influx of foreigners to Poland, Supreme Audit Office, NIK, Przygotowanie organów państwa na wypadek masowego napływu cudzoziemców do Polski, available in Polish: https://bit.ly/3mWDvQY, Situation of foreigners in the centres guarded in times of crisis on the border of Poland and Belarus, available in Polish here: https://bit.ly/3URYZek.
 Information provided by Nomada Association and Halina Niec Legal Aid Centre, March 2023.
 Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 3 February 2023.
 Information provided by Rule of Law Institute, 20 January 2023.
 Information provided by Refugee Board, 12 January 2023.
 Preparation of state bodies in case of a mass influx of foreigners to Poland, Supreme Audit Office, NIK, Przygotowanie organów państwa na wypadek masowego napływu cudzoziemców do Polski, available in Polish: https://bit.ly/3mWDvQY,
 Information provided by Krosno Odrzańskie 3 March 2023.
 Information provided by Biała Podlaska 8 March 2023.
 Information provided by Border Guards in Lesznowola 7 March 2023.
 Information provided by Border Guards in Kętrzyn 2023.