Specific measures imposed during the pandemic in 2021
IGI-DAI reported the following measures: distribution of sanitary and protection materials, disinfection of premises, isolation of persons detected as testing positively for COVID and their direct contacts, rapid testing and PCR testing, carrying out Covid vaccinations.
Before being detained, foreigner nationals were quarantined in spaces specially designated for this purpose, by the DSP according to the National Emergency Committee CNSU Decision.
In Arad, the director of the Arad centre reported that as in 2020, in 2021 newly arrived detainees were placed in quarantine for 14 days in a separate building (building B). The building has 52 places. They were accommodated in rooms with 4 bunk beds, a shower and a toilet. This was confirmed by the JRS representative, who reported that detainees were still quarantined in building C and while in quarantine, everything was suspended, including information provision. If foreigners are apprehended together, they will be placed in the same room. They are not allowed to leave their rooms while in quarantine. The food is provided directly in the detainees’ rooms. After the quarantine they are moved to building C, where the rest of the foreigners are detained. They are monitored by the medical staff of the centre; they check their temperature; special attention being provided to the ones who have had symptoms. For vaccinated persons the quarantine period was shorter, around 5 days. However, during the visit, the author noticed that newly arrived detainees were also quarantined in building C.
In Otopeni, the newly arrived detainees were separated from the other detainees for 14 days and placed in separate rooms. Vaccinated detainees were separated for only 2 days. According to the director they are allowed to leave their rooms at the recommendation of the medical doctor or when the rest of the foreigners were inside their rooms. Their meals were served in their rooms. However, the JRS representative reported that they were not allowed to leave their rooms. As for information provision on their rights and obligations, detainees received leaflets in English upon arrival. They also receive verbal information and if they have questions or requests, IGI answers them. In addition, CNRR also has leaflets in several languages.
In 2021 in Otopeni there were 20 COVID-19 cases, according to the director and at the time of the visit there were 2 confirmed cases and in Arad there were 10-20 cases. None of the cases required hospitalization.
As for Dublin returnees, according to the director they are placed in quarantine for 10-14 days in a guesthouse in Otopeni. However, if they have a PCR test they are placed in Otopeni detention centre. Vaccinated persons are under medical supervision for 2 days. In Arad, there were no Dublin returnees detained in 2021.
Communication, information provision and counselling during these 14 days is very limited in both centres. The director of Otopeni said that if they have enquiries they will answer them. The director of Arad stated that those in detention have the right to use the landline. The landline is in the common room. Access is not limited but they only have five euros credit per month.
In 2021, the COVID-19 measures were loosened in Otopeni, access to detention centres was not restricted for visitors, except when the incidents rate in the city of Otopeni was over 3 per thousand, meals were served normally. However, masks were still distributed to the foreigners by IGI when they arrived in the centre, and the detainees’ temperature was measured every 3 days by a medical assistant according to one detainee, interviewed by the author.
During the author’s interview with the detainees in Arad centre neither of those interviewed, nor the rest of the detainees had masks. Those interviewed stated that they only receive masks when they have a meeting with the director of the centre. The interviews took place in the hallway next to the dining room. In contrast, in Otopeni all the interviewed detainees had masks and the interviews were held in the club room. There was a broken desk and 2 worn down chairs in the room and there was no plexiglass on the table.
Detainees in Arad and Otopeni receive masks from IGI and CNRR.
COVID-19 specific measures imposed on return procedures
In 2021, according to the director of Arad, 475 foreigners were returned to Serbia on the basis of the readmission agreement, compared to 612 foreigners in 2020. The majority of those returned to Serbia were Afghan, Pakistani and Indian nationals. They had to be tested for COVID-19 in order to be returned. 400 persons were tested in 2021. Tests were performed in the detention centre by specialised personel from a laboratory.
While the JRS representative from Timisoara had no knowledge of the exact number of persons retuned to Serbia, she reported that the number was high.
According to the directors of Otopeni, the detainees have to be tested for COVID-19 in order to return them. The PCR tests are performed in the detentention centre and the samples sent to a laboratory. IGI has a project in place for the acquisition of PCR tests, which is also supplemented by tests covered by DSP.According to the director of Otopeni around 200 persons were returned to Serbia, of whom 180 were returned by land and 20 by air. According to representatives from Otopeni two thirds of the detainees were returned based on readmission agreements to Serbia, Bulgaria or Ukraine and only one third to their countries of origin.
Specially designed closed spaces
Before the recast Reception Conditions Directive, Romania only detained foreigners subject to removal. An asylum detention regime was established following the transposition of the Directive, taking the form of a specially designed closed place i.e. locked rooms in each Regional Centre, except Giurgiu.
Detention in a specially designed closed space is ordered in writing, for a period of 30 days, by an order motivated in fact and in law by the designated prosecutor within the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Court of Appeal territorially competent for the area where the Regional Centre is located, upon a motivated request by IGI.Romania does not apply this form of detention in practice. Since the entry into force of the reform on 20 April 2016 and until today, only one applicant in Bucharest has been subject to asylum detention, as he was considered dangerous for public order. The reasons behind the lack of use of the specially designed closed spaces of the reception centres include lack of staff, as well as unsuitable facilities to meet the standard requirements for detention, especially concerning daily meals.
In both 2020 and 2021 due to the high number of arrivals in Rădăuţi, Şomcuta Mare, Galaţi these specially designed closed spaces were used to accommodate asylum seekers.
|Capacity of specially designed closed spaces: 2021|
Source: IGI-DAI, 10 March 2022.
Public custody centres
The 2015 reform also amended the provisions of the Aliens Ordinance regarding the situation of foreigners who lodge an asylum application from detention. Whereas prior to 2015 the Aliens Ordinance required the release of foreigners from detention as soon as a first application for international protection was lodged, the Aliens Ordinance now prescribes that an asylum seeker is only released when he or she is granted access to the regular procedure in Romania.
The law defines the measure of taking a person into “public custody” as a temporary restriction of the freedom of movement on the territory of Romania, ordered against foreigners in order to accomplish all the necessary steps for removal or transfer under the Dublin Regulation under escort. In practice, however, it constitutes a measure of deprivation of liberty.
There are 2 detention centres, known as Centres for Accommodation of Foreigners Taken into Public Custody (Centrul de Cazare a StrăinilorluaţiînCustodiePublică), located in Otopeni, near Bucharest, and Arad, near Timișoara. The centres are managed by IGI and are specially designed for the temporary accommodation of foreigners taken into public custody.
Detention (“public custody”) is ordered in writing by an order, justified in law and in fact by the designated prosecutor within the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Court of Appeal of Bucharest, upon a motivated request by IGI.
In general asylum seekers are not detained. The main categories of asylum seekers detained are those who have applied for asylum from detention and whose application has been assessed in the accelerated procedure.
During 2021, 129 asylum applications were made from public custody centres.
In 2021, a total of 1,327 foreigners were detained in the public custody centres, compared to 1,241 in 2020 and 377 in 2019, of whom 717 persons were detained in Otopeni and 997 in Arad.
Arad: During the author’s visit to the Public Custody Centre of Arad on 4 February 2022, there were 121 foreigners in detention out of whom 1 was an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, who was granted acces to the regular asylum procedure and he was to be transferred to the Timisoara centre. A total of 997 persons were detained in Arad in 2021, compared to 1,164 in 2020. Out of the total number of detainees, 238 were Afghan nationals and 123 were Syrian nationals. According to the director of Arad, a total number of 89 asylum applications were made in Arad, out of which 73 were granted access to the regular procedure. In addition, 40 subsequent applications were made, out of which only 6 were granted access to the regular procedure. However, the Director of Timișoara Centre reported that 84 asylum applications were made in 2021 in Arad, out of which only 62 were assessed in the regular procedure. The majority of the applications after August were made by Afghan nationals.
The JRS representative in Timisoara reported that none of the Syrian nationals wanted to make an asylum application, because they don’t want to have Romanian identification documents, they want to reach Germany.
Otopeni: According to the director of the Otopeni Public Custody Centre 717 persons were detained in Otopeni in 2021, compared to 391 persons detained in 2020. No statistics on the number of asylum seekers or migrants who lodged a subsequent application were provided. However, it was reported that 68 first time asylum applications and subsequent applications were granted access to the ordinary procedure. It was also reported that the majority of applications were subsequent applications and were made by Afghan nationals.
The law prescribes a deadline of 3 days for IGI-DAI to assess the asylum application of an applicant who is in detention and to issue a motivated decision. Therefore, in these cases the procedure is rapidly conducted. Asylum seekers cannot prepare for the personal interview, as they have no time to contact an attorney or a legal counsellor in order to be counselled or assisted at the interview.
According to the JRS representative many of the asylum seekers in Arad detention centre were relying on information received from the other detainees, saying that the legal counsellor from Timisoara is not providing legal counselling anymore to asylum seekers in Arad. This was also confirmed by the detainees interviewed by the author. Conversely, the director stated that legal counselling is provided by the legal counsellor from Timisoara, however, he never saw her in the detention centre in 2021, but he stated that he saw her at an interview conducted through videoconference.
 Information provided by IGI-DAI, 10 March 2022.
 Article 19^7(1) Asylum Act.
 Article 101(1) Aliens Ordinance.
 Article 103(3) Aliens Ordinance.
 Article 19^14(1) Asylum Act; Article 101(2) Aliens Ordinance.
 Information provided by IGI-DAI, 20 February 2020.
 Article 19^15(1) Asylum Act.