Conditions in reception facilities

Poland

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

Author

Independent

The Head of the Office for Foreigners is responsible for the management of all the centres. This authority can delegate its responsibility for managing the centres to social organisations, associations, private owners, companies, etc.[1] Currently 6 reception centres are managed by the private contractors, others are directly managed by the Office for Foreigners.

The Office for Foreigners monitors the situation in the centres managed by private contractors on a daily basis through the Office’s employees working in those centres and through the overall inspections taking place two times a year.[2] Moreover, in 2020, the centre in Kolonia-Horbów was controlled in response to the complaint of an asylum seeker living there. Additionally, three centres were monitored by the epidemiological and sanitary authorities.[3]

Asylum seekers can complain to the Office for Foreigners on the situation in the centres[4], but in practice they rarely lodge such complaints. In 2019 and 2020, the Office for Foreigners registered 13 and 5 complaints respectively, however all of them concerned medical assistance, not conditions in reception centres.[5] In 2020, one foreigner complained to the sanitary authorities on the conditions in the Kolonia-Horbów centre.[6]

Overall living conditions

Living conditions differ across the reception centres. In the centres managed by private contractors ensuring certain minimum living conditions standards is obligatory on the basis of agreements between these contractors and the Office for Foreigners. Thus, centres have to have furnished rooms for asylum applicants, a separate common room for men and for women, kindergarten, space to practice religion, a recreation area, school rooms, specified number of refrigerators and washing machines.[7] Other conditions are dependent on the willingness and financial capacities of the contractor. Most often, one family stays in one room, without separated bedrooms or kitchen. Moreover, usually the centres do not offer separated bathrooms and kitchens, only the common ones.[8]

None of the centres was built in order to serve as a centre for foreigners. Most of them were used for different purposes before, as army barracks, hostels for workers or holiday resorts.[9]

In general, conditions in the reception centres are considered to be better now than in the past years. It results from the greater attention given to the living conditions when a contractor for running a centre is being chosen and the renovations conducted in the recent years in the centres that are managed by the Office for Foreigners.[10] Despite that, some asylum seekers complain about those conditions, mentioning for instance bed bugs in the rooms.[11] According to the NGOs, asylum seekers generally assess the conditions in the centres rather low.[12] For instance, in the research conducted in the centre in Grupa foreigners predominantly complained about the food served in the centre. They assessed the centre’s cleanliness, appearance and furnishings mostly as ‘average’ or ‘bad’.[13] Meanwhile, the Office for Foreigners’ anonymous survey conducted in January 2020 in 10 reception centres has shown that asylum seekers living there are overall satisfied with the material reception conditions they receive. The survey concerned accommodation (equipment, cleanness, etc.), food, medical assistance and centres’ employees. In most of the centres, the level of satisfaction ranged from 70 to 95%. The centres in Linin and Grupa have been rated the worst, with 42.75% and 58% levels of satisfactions respectively. Overall, asylum seekers most often complained about the food and medical assistance provided in the centres.[14] While the results of the survey seem encouraging, it must be noted that the number of the respondents was not provided by the Office for Foreigners.

No protests or hunger strikes in centres have been reported in years 2014-2017 and in 2019.[15] In 2018 an asylum seeker informed the Office for Foreigners in writing that he has started a hunger strike due to the fact that his and his wife’s asylum procedures had been separated because they had split up.[16] In 2020, one protest occurred in the centre in Warsaw that is dedicated to women and single mothers. Asylum seekers opposed the limitations that resulted from the COVID-19 quarantine. According to the Office for Foreigners, thanks to immediate reaction of the Office, medical operator and NGOs, the situation was quickly under control.[17]

In every centre, there are two kinds of staff: employees of the Office for Foreigners and other employees (as kitchen aids, cleaners etc.). As regards the staff rate, in 2020, one employee of the Office for Foreigners was maximally in charge of 123 asylum seekers (staying outside and inside centres) and 62 asylum seekers (living in the centres).[18]

As of December 2020, there were 29 employees of Office for Foreigners working in all the centres and a variable number of other workers.[19] Staff in the centre is working from Monday to Friday from 7:00 to 18:00. They are mainly responsible for the administration of the centre, not for a social work with asylum seekers. The number of employees of the Office for Foreigners and the scope of their responsibilities are considered insufficient.[20] At night and on weekends only guards are present in the centre. Security staff is available in all centres around the clock.[21]

Activities in the centres

Polish language courses are organised in all reception centres, for children and adults. Those courses are considered the only integration activity provided by the Office for Foreigners.[22] See more in Access to Education.

In 2020 NGOs carried out some projects in the centres which aimed at providing:

  • Education (learning Polish, assistance with homework, integration activities);
  • Psychological assistance;
  • Legal assistance.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the access to the reception centres for persons whose presence there was not indispensable was limited. Psychological, legal and educational assistance was provided online or by phone (since March 2020). NGOs were able to access the reception centres again in June-September 2020, but the limitations in this regard were re-introduced in November 2020. [23]

All centres have libraries, although they were accessed with some difficulty in March-June 2020 due to the COVID-19 limitations. In all centres access to internet is provided.[24]

In all centres there is a special room designed for religious practices.[25] If asylum seekers want to participate in religious services outside of the centre, they have such a right, although in practice the remoteness from the closest place of worship can prevent them from participating in such services.

[1]  Article 79(2) Law on Protection.

[2]  Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 15 January 2019 and 22 January 2020.

[3]  Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021.

[4]  Para 17 of the Annex to the Regulation on rules of stay in the centre for asylum seekers.

[5]  Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020 and 26 January 2021.

[6] Information from the Office for Foreigners, 4 March 2021.

[7]  Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/31xfDnV, 4.

[8]  W. Goszczyński, R. Baczyński-Sielaczek, J. Suchomska, J. Stankowska and M. Wróblewski. ‘Lokalne systemy integracji uchodźców – badania’ in Fundacja EMIC and Pracownia Zrównoważonego Rozwoju, Wielogłos. Integracja uchodźców w polskich gminach (2016), avaialble (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/31uBLiE, 63, 67.

[9] See Lukasiewicz, K., ‘Exile to Poverty: Policies and Poverty Among Refugees in Poland’, International Migration Vol. 55 (6) 2017, 61.

[10] M. Pachocka, K. Pędziwiatr, K. Sobczak-Szelc, J. Szałańska (2020) ‘Reception Policies, Practices and Responses: Poland Country Report’, RESPOND Working Papers 2020/45, available at: http://bit.ly/3jLCvsV, 43-44, 60.

[11]  With regard to the centres in Targówek and Dębak, see ibid., 44-45, 61.  

[12]  See i.a. W. Goszczyński, R. Baczyński-Sielaczek, J. Suchomska, J. Stankowska and M. Wróblewski. ‘Lokalne systemy integracji uchodźców – badania’ in Fundacja EMIC and Pracownia Zrównoważonego Rozwoju, Wielogłos. Integracja uchodźców w polskich gminach (2016), avaialble (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/31uBLiE, 64.

[13] Ibid, 65-67.

[14] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 4 March 2021.

[15] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 1 February 2018 and 22 January 2020.

[16] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 15 January 2019.

[17] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021.

[18]  Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021.

[19] Ibid.

[20]  Concerns expressed by SIP, 8 January 2020. See also M. Pachocka, K. Pędziwiatr, K. Sobczak-Szelc, J. Szałańska (2020) ‘Reception Policies, Practices and Responses: Poland Country Report’, RESPOND Working Papers 2020/45, available at: http://bit.ly/3jLCvsV, 64-65.

[21] Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/31xfDnV, 8.

[22] W. Goszczyński, R. Baczyński-Sielaczek, J. Suchomska, J. Stankowska and M. Wróblewski. ‘Lokalne systemy integracji uchodźców – badania’ in Fundacja EMIC and Pracownia Zrównoważonego Rozwoju, Wielogłos. Integracja uchodźców w polskich gminach (2016), avaialble (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/31uBLiE, 69.

[23] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/31xfDnV, 4. See also Supreme Audit Office, Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli, November 2015, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4, 9.

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