The representatives of the Human Rights Defender visited two centers for foreigners – in Krosno Odrzańskie and Wędrzyn. The summary report stated that in one of them “bad” living conditions prevail, in the other “very bad, not meeting the standards of decent treatment”. The attention was paid to, inter alia, “exceeding the maximum capacity of the center”, that residential buildings “resemble prisons” and “conditions of detention may deepen the trauma”. “There is a noticeable lack of adequate medical and psychological help” – it was written in the context of the Wędrzyn center.
On Tuesday, a report on visits to centers for foreigners was published on the website of the Ombudsman’s Office.
“On October 8-21, 2021, representatives of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (whose tasks are entrusted to the Human Rights Defender – editor’s note) carried out simultaneous and independent visits to the Border Guard Department of the Guarded Center for Foreigners in Krosno Odrzańskie, which are within the jurisdiction of the Nadodrze Division of the Border Guard ( SOC) and the Temporary Guarded Center for Foreigners in Wędrzyn (TSOC), created in connection with the increase in the number of foreigners detained due to irregularly crossing the state border and the lack of a residence permit on the territory of the Republic of Poland “- it was announced.
The visits were conducted by the deputy director of the team, Marcin Kusy, as well as Michał Żłobecki and Agnieszka Szmajdzińska from the Department of Migrant and National Minority Rights at the Human Rights Defender’s Office. Maria Książak, an external expert in psychology, member of the Expert Committee of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, also took part in the activities.
What did the representatives of the Ombudsman check during the visits?
The visits “were aimed at checking the conditions of detention and treatment of persons deprived of their liberty staying in guarded centers for foreigners”.
“The issues concerning: living conditions in institutions and the implementation of the so-called minimum anti-torture guarantees, including: the right to information; access to health care and legal aid; the possibility of lodging a complaint and contacting the outside world; disclosed cases of persons experiencing violence, in poor health and minors placed in detention were also subjected to this “.
Dozens of places beyond the limit
The visiting persons held talks with the commander of the Nadodrzański Border Guard Unit (NOSG), Brigadier General of the Border Guard Tomasz Michalski and Lieutenant Colonel of the Border Guard Rafał Potocki, head of the Guarded Center for Foreigners, and his deputy SG Major Marek Radziukiewicz, head of TSOC.
“Representatives of the Commissioner for Human Rights inspected and measured selected rooms, and also held group and individual talks with foreigners and officers. During the visit, selected documentation available in the centers was analyzed, and photographic documentation was prepared” – it was written on the Human Rights Defender’s website.
“The information provided by the commandant of the NOSG and the head of the SOC shows that until the regulation of the Ministry of Interior and Administration of August 13, 2021 was issued, the guarded center in Krosno Odrzańskie was intended for a maximum of 65 people, adult men. During the activities conducted by the NMPT and ZRT, the capacity of the SOC was 97 places, which significantly reduced the living space of foreigners placed there, “the report reads.
It said that “men were kept in halls of up to nine people.” “Due to the increased housing needs, immigrants are also placed in monitored cells that are part of the Pdr” – added.
Representatives of the Commissioner for Human Rights: maximum capacity of the center exceeded
“On the day of the visit, the representatives of the Human Rights Defender were informed that 47 foreigners were in quarantine due to the disclosed case of SARS-COV-2 coronavirus infection. On the last day, the visitors were notified of the second confirmed case of the coronavirus. In this context, it is also worth noting that on October 21 in There were 99 people in the SOC, which indicates that the maximum capacity of the center was exceeded “- it was reported further.
It was also explained that “due to the current migration situation, a decision was made to establish a facility for foreigners on the premises of an active military training ground in Wędrzyn, for which the maximum capacity is currently set at 600 people”. “It is also planned to open an isolation room on the premises of TSOC for up to 150 foreigners quarantined in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic” – it was indicated.
“According to the transferred records, on October 19, TSOC was inhabited by 434 foreigners. However, this number is gradually growing and due to the bringing in a total of 120 adult men who have been staying in the Guarded Center in Kętrzyn on October 20 (the transfer takes place due to the change in the profile of the facility in Kętrzyn to The facility will be filled in the near future. In this context, it should be noted that currently SOC in Krosno Odrzańskie and TSOC in Wędrzyn are the only guarded centers for men in the country “- we read further.
Conclusions of the representatives of the Human Rights Defender after the visits: the living conditions should be assessed as bad
According to the representatives of the Defender, the “living conditions” in the Guarded Center for Foreigners in Krosno Odrzańskie (SOC) “should be assessed as bad”. “Apart from the problems resulting from overcrowding, the visitors noticed the disorder and stuffiness in the facility” – indicated.
“Bars are installed in the windows. Meanwhile, according to the ordinance of the Ministry of the Interior of April 24, 2015 on guarded centers and arrests for foreigners, securing windows with external bars is allowed only in the case of residential cells in detention centers for foreigners” – added.
“It is true that the residents of two apartment blocks can use shared toilets on the floors, but foreigners located in the health care cells take care of their physiological needs in their multi-person rooms, in sanitary corners built up to a height of about a meter. It is also worth noting that shower cabins in the baths they are separated by identical walls, and they do not provide cover on three sides, which, in the opinion of the NMPT, seriously affects the privacy of people using sanitary facilities “- it was informed.
Residential buildings in a temporary facility “resemble prisons”
The representatives of the Human Rights Defender also verified the conditions in the temporary center. “The housing conditions in TSOC in Wędrzyn should be assessed as very bad, not meeting the standards of decent treatment of persons deprived of liberty” – stated in the post-visit report.
“The information obtained shows that the commandant of the NOSG was commissioned to prepare a temporary center in five days. Two residential buildings divided into two wards each (the ward may contain up to 150 people) resemble prisons, they are surrounded by ‘concertina’ wire entanglements” – it was reported.
The visiting people pointed out that “the barbed wire is even in the small walking squares available to foreigners”. According to them, “this poses a real threat to the security of both the people and officers placed there.” “On the outer side of the windows, lattice panels were installed, which on the one hand enhance the penitentiary image of the facility, and on the other do not constitute security” – he added.
It was also emphasized that “people staying at TSOC were not aware that the facility was located in an active military training ground, therefore they were greatly stressed by the sounds of shots and explosions they heard every day”. “It is particularly shocking, considering that among those placed in the TSOC there are people who have left their country of origin due to armed conflicts there, and the conditions of detention may deepen the trauma” – explained.
In centers for foreigners “there is a noticeable lack of adequate medical assistance”
Representatives of the Commissioner for Human Rights also said that in the temporary center “foreigners were accommodated in dormitories for a maximum of 20-22 people”.
“They sleep on two-story bunks, the rooms lack any furniture other than a table and stools. The windows of the living rooms lack covers, so the men stuck the panes with toilet paper. The barracks are untidy, and the sanitary facilities are not clean. waste and cigarette butts are visible. Foreigners store their clothes on the floor or in plastic bags “- it was calculated.
As we read in the report, “the representatives of the Human Rights Defender also noted that the current one the situation has a clearly negative impact on the ability of foreigners to exercise their basic rights, including to receive information in a language that they understand or to contact with the outside world “.
“Visitors revealed people with experience of torture and other forms of violence in the centers, as well as foreigners in poor health. There is a noticeable lack of adequate medical and psychological assistance” – added the summary. Also noticed was “extremely limited access to the outside world of foreigners placed in the facility in Wędrzyn”. “It also causes problems with getting in touch with lawyers or non-governmental organizations” – explained the representatives of the Human Rights Defender.
Main photo source: border guards