“Still behind bars”: report on monitoring of Polish immigration detention centres published.

There have been positive improvements in the regime in immigration detention centres in Poland over the past two years, a report on monitoring in these centres reveals. However, concerns still remain, in particular regarding the immigration detention of children.

Entitled “Still behind bars”, the report contains the results of monitoring in all guarded centres for foreigners in Poland in January and February 2014, by IDC members the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) and the Association for Legal Intervention (ALI). This monitoring was undertaken to follow up on recommendations made by the same NGOs in 2012 and undertakings made by the Ministry of Interior in response. The report, which was originally published in Polish in May 2014, was released in English in September 2014.

In 2012, HFHR and ALI recommended that systemic changes be made in the conditions and regime in guarded centres to move away from a “prison-like” environment. In addition, it argued that a range of legal changes – above all provisions according to which a foreigner would be deprived of freedom only as a measure of last resort and for a period as short as possible. It was also pointed out that there was no legal grounds for applying a penalty for breach of order, such as e.g. a shopping or private telephone ban.

The present report reveals significant positive changes, in particular to the regime in guarded centres. There is now a uniform internal order in all guarded centres and detainees are able to move freely within the centres, with fewer restrictions (for example on the use of phones). Informal disciplinary measures and enforced regime requirements (such as requiring detainees to be present at meals or roll calls) have been abolished. The facilities have also been equipped with recreational equipment and work provide internet access in the centres has commenced. Alternatives to detention were also introduced in law this year.

However, a number of serious concerns still remain. In particular, the monitoring revealed that one quarter of detainees were children (84 out of a total of 347 people detained). The report points out that this large number indicates that children are not being detained as a measure last resort and following consideration of their best interests as is currently required under Polish law. It recommends that children (both in return procedures and refugees, unaccompanied and with families) should not be places in guarded centres and that until such a ban is introduced, they should only be placed in the centres as a measure of last resort.

Further recommendations include that:

  • A system should be implemented to identify torture victims, people suffering from PTSD and other person who should not be detained in a guarded centre.
  • It is necessary to increase and standardise the level of psychological and psychiatric assistance for foreigners in guarded centres.
  • Language skills among the personnel of guarded centres needs to be improved.
  • Foreigners need to be better informed about their legal situation.
  • Safety measures applied to foreigners shall be limited (to move away from a prison-like regime. E.g. bars should be removed from windows).
  • The rules of visitation should be standardised and liberalised

The report and erratum published following feedback from Polish authorities are available here:

Still behind Bars, Report on the Monitoring of Guarded Centres for Foreigners by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Association for Legal Intervention (2014)

Erratum: http://programy.hfhr.pl/uchodzcy/files/2014/06/errata-raport-monitoring-SOC-2014.EN18.09fin.pdf

See also:

HFHR & ALI, Migration is not a Crime (2012)