Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 16/04/21



Persons who need special treatment are defined particularly as:[1]

  1. Minors
  2. Disabled people
  3. Elderly people
  4. Pregnant women
  5. Single parents
  6. Victims of human trafficking
  7. Seriously ill
  8. Mentally disordered people
  9. Victims of torture
  10. Victims of violence (psychological, psychical, including sexual).

An asylum seeker is considered as a person who needs special treatment in the field of material reception conditions, if there is a need to:

  • Accommodate him or her in a reception centre adapted to the needs of the disabled people or ensuring a single room or designed only for women or women with children;
  • Place him or her in special medical premises (like a hospice);
  • Place him or her in a foster care corresponding to the psychophysical situation of the asylum seeker;
  • Adapt his or her diet to his or her state of health.[2]

If an asylum seeker is a person who needs special treatment, his/her needs concerning accommodation and alimentation are taken into account when providing material reception conditions.[3] An asylum seeker who needs special treatment should be accommodated in the reception centre by taking into account his special needs.[4]

On 2 November 2015, the Office for Foreigners adopted Procedure No 1/2015 which concerns the granting of social assistance to vulnerable groups. The document contains the steps of identification for the purpose of providing adequate support by the employees of the Social Assistance Department, dividing the vulnerable groups into categories mentioned in the law (e.g. elderly persons, disabled, minors, torture victims, etc.).

The Border Guard ensures transport to the reception centre and – in justified cases – food during the transport after claiming for asylum only to: disabled or elderly people, single parents and pregnant women.[5] The same groups can benefit from this transport after the Dublin transfer and release from a detention centre.[6] Other vulnerable asylum seekers cannot benefit from the organised transport, they must get to the reception centre by themselves, which is considered ‘a gap in asylum system’.[7] In practice, the transport for disabled or elderly people, single parents and pregnant women is provided very rarely. However, in the detention centre in Krosno Odrzańskie in 2019, according to the information provided by the SG, those asylum seekers who could not afford bearing the costs of travel to the reception centre were given a financial support from AMIF and – if needed – offered the accommodation and food from Caritas. Other detention centres did not inform about such good practices.

Some of the reception centres are adapted to the needs of disabled asylum seekers. All of the centres managed by the Office for Foreigners (4) have special entry for disabled foreigners and bathrooms adapted to the needs of the asylum seekers on wheelchairs. Other centres (3) have some adaptations for such asylum seekers. There is also a provision of rehabilitation services to this group of persons. The Office for Foreigners declares that it provides the transport for the medical examinations and rehabilitation services as well as specialist equipment, when needed.[8]

There are no separate accommodation centres for traumatised asylum seekers, or other vulnerable persons but some of them (including torture victims) can be placed in a single room if there is such a need.

Reception of women and children

Only one centre is designed to host single women or single women with children. It is located in Warsaw and it is managed by the private contractor. From its very beginnings it is fully occupied.[9] Moreover, social assistance may be granted outside of the centre when it is necessary in order to ensure the safety of the asylum seeker, with special consideration to the situation of single women.[10]

Since 2008, the Office for Foreigners has a special agreement with the Police, UNHCR, “La Strada” Foundation and Halina Niec Legal Aid Centre aiming to better identify, prevent and respond to gender-based violence in reception centres.[11] In regard to all reception centres, special teams have been created, consisting of one representative from the Office for Foreigners, the Police and an NGO. Their task is to effectively prevent acts of violence in reception centres and respond to any which do occur quickly. There were 28 cases of violence in 2017, 13 in 2018, 14 in 2019 and 10 in 2020.[12]

In 2017 and 2018, the Office for Foreigners in partnership with NGOs implemented a comprehensive system of child protection against violence in the centres. In the framework of the project “We protect children in the centres for foreigners”, trainings of centre staff were organised and standards of child protection were developed.[13]

In 2020, the suspicion of violence being used against asylum-seeking children staying in the centre in Warsaw was reported. The Polish language teacher was dismissed and the case is currently pending before the court.[14]

Reception of unaccompanied children

The only safeguards related to special reception needs of unaccompanied children are those referring to their place of stay. Unaccompanied children are not accommodated in the centres. The custody court places them in a youth care facility, so unaccompanied children are not accommodated with adults in practice. Until the court makes a decision on placing a child in a regular youth care facility, an unaccompanied child stays with a professional foster family functioning as emergency shelter or in a youth care facility for crisis situations.[15]

As noticed in the EASO report, amendments introduced to Article 61 of the Law on Protection, ‘now make it possible to submit an application for placement in foster custody immediately after an unaccompanied minor expresses the intention to submit an application for international protection. Per previous practice, this would take place only after an application was submitted.’[16]

The law also refers to qualified personnel that should undertake activities in the asylum procedures concerning unaccompanied children (a defined profile of higher education, 2 years of relevant experience).[17]

When providing material reception conditions to children, the need to safeguard their interests should be taken into account, especially taking into consideration family unity, best interests of the child and their social development, security and protection (particularly if they are a victim of human trafficking) and their opinion according to their age and maturity.[18]

Whereas previously they were mainly placed in a youth care facility in Warsaw, currently unaccompanied asylum-seeking children can be placed in facilities throughout the country. However, in 2020 they were accommodated mainly in Kętrzyn, Warsaw, Siematycze, Janów Podlaski, and Białystok.[19]

[1] Article 68(1) Law on Protection.

[2] Article 68(2) Law on Protection.

[3] Article 69a Law on Protection.

[4] Para 5(3) Annex to the Regulation on rules of stay in the centre for asylum seekers.

[5] Article 30(1)(8) Law on Protection.

[6] Article 40a and Article 89cb Law on Protection.

[7]  Pachocka, M. and Sobczak-Szelc K., ‘Refugee Protection Poland – Country Report’, Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond Project (Horizon2020), January 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2U1A9uL, 73.

[8] Information from the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021.

[9]  Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/3btqAeG, 9. However, the occupancy rate was lower in 2020 in this centre as in all other centres. Due to pandemic, living outside of the centres was encouraged.

[10] Article 72(1)(1) Law on Protection.

[11]  Porozumienie w sprawie standardowych procedur postępowania w zakresie rozpoznawania, przeciwdziałania oraz reagowania na przypadki przemocy seksualnej lub przemocy związanej z płcią wobec cudzoziemców przebywających w ośrodkach dla osób ubiegających się o nadanie statusu uchodźcy, 25 March 2008. To learn more about it, see Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/38qPIRm, 8.

[12] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 1 February 2017, 1 February 2018, 15 January 2019 and 22 January 2020.

[13] Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/2H9jiPk, 9.

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

[15] Article 62 (2) Law on Protection.

[16] EASO, Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union 2018 (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/31GgGlD, 172.

[17] Article 66 Law on Protection.

[18] Article 69b Law on Protection.

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

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