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Centers for foreigners, “de facto prisons”. Reservations of the Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders

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The buildings where migrants enter the border illegally are places surrounded by walls and barbed wire. There are eight such institutions across the country. About 2,000 people are staying there. The Ombudsman and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights have a list of objections to these institutions. Material of the magazine “Polska i Świat”.

When a month and a half ago Ola – a migrant from Iraq – introduced her family to journalists in the Podlasie forest, she did not know under what conditions she would spend the next weeks in Poland. “We feel like in prison,” he says now.


As it turned out, these were the conditions for restricting freedom – a guarded building, surrounded by a high wall and barbed wire. – We cannot treat these people as prisoners and this is the basic problem – emphasizes Marcin Kusy from the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture of the Office of the Human Rights Defender.

Activists appeal for children detained in prison conditions

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Migrants who crossed the border illegally end up in guarded centers. There are eight such institutions across the country and about 2,000 people there. Human rights defenders, who are most opposed to the fact of placing children in such places, speak of the fact that they are subject to prison regime.

– Children should not be there, because these are de facto prisons and are not adapted to keeping children there. Detention should be as short as possible, and certainly not up to two years, points out Ewa Ostaszewska from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

This is how long it may take to assess the migrant’s situation. You can wait up to six months for a decision on international protection. If the foreigner has not submitted an application or has appealed, he may wait another year and a half for asylum or deportation. It’s time spent in isolation.

Limited access to fresh air

– We can’t leave the building when we want to. We only have two hours a day for a walk. We cannot spend time with others. They took our smartphones not to take pictures. There are even cameras in the bathroom – complains a migrant from Iraq.

Limited access to fresh air and the outside world is confirmed by the Human Rights Defender and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. They also list the difficult access to lawyers, doctors and psychologists, and in the case of children, to paediatricians. Children don’t have books or toys. Such conditions cause frustration and mental problems.

Difficult conditions in the center in WędrzynRPO

– There are a lot of such cases. These are children who attempt suicide, these are women who, due to prolonged isolation, are unable to withstand there and take final measures – emphasizes Ewa Ostaszewska.

The Border Guard sends the few migrants to an open center, mainly for health reasons, but they are reluctant to do so, because 90 percent of the 300 people placed there fled. – These people are no longer on the territory of Poland. For their treatment and maintenance, the Border Guard spent one and a half million zlotys – enumerates the spokeswoman of the Border Guard, 2nd Lt. Anna Michalska.

Reservations regarding centers for foreigners

Therefore, according to human rights defenders, conditions in guarded centers must be improved immediately. Meanwhile, the government worsened these conditions by reducing the allowable space in the centers to two square meters per person. – The minimum standard in Polish prisons is three square meters. International standards specify a minimum of four meters. There are countries where it is six square meters and we are talking about prisons – points out Marcin Kusy.

Difficult conditions in the center in WędrzynRPO

The worst conditions are in Wędrzyn, where there was a rebellion. It is an ad hoc center set up on an active military training ground. It is overcrowded and the toilets are not intimate. – We assessed the conditions there as inhumane – says Przemysław Kazimirski, director of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture in the Office of the Human Rights Defender.

All centers are united by the lack of providing migrants with complete information. Some people do not even know what center they are in. There are also people who have been victims of torture in their own countries in isolation. There are also migrants from Afghanistan and Syria, and deportations to these countries have been suspended. – They are still in these centers, even though the law allows for their release – points out Marcin Kusy.

A migrant who told journalists about the conditions in the center says that she is now having problems with the information she provided to reporters. – They say to me behave, because you will find yourself back on the border – he emphasizes.

Sylwia Piestrzyńska, asty / adso

Main photo source: RPO

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