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Containers for refugees – another step back in protection of foreigners’ rights

Upon the invitation of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration, the HFHR has presented its comments to a draft regulation that amends the regulation on guarded centres for foreigners and immigration detention centres.

Containers and barred windows

The proposed regulation provides two major changes to the conditions of foreigners’ placement at guarded centres. First, it introduces the option of housing foreigners in container units whose house rules resemble prison security protocols. Second, it obliges centres’ administrators to install bars in windows of living quarters at guarded centres. The newly developed amendments have been explained by Europe’s migration situation and the necessity of ensuring additional rooms for foreigners in the event of a massive influx of refugees to Poland.

“The proposed solution is yet another step towards a more restrictive migration and asylum policy of Poland”, says Marta Górczyńska, a member of the Foundation’s legal team. “Contrary to what is claimed in the explanatory notes appended to the draft, the regulation is not a response to the real challenges related to the migration situation in Europe because the situation has not appeared in Poland at all. The number of persons applying in Poland for international protection has been stable for years, and the number of foreigners placed each year in guarded centres actually dwindles each year”, she adds.

HFHR: this violates foreigners’ basic rights

In the presented comments, the HFHR notes that the placement of foreigners at housing containers with house rules resembling prison security protocols may lead to violations of fundamental rights enjoyed by these persons, and in particular rights of children and vulnerable persons such as persons with disabilities, elderly persons, pregnant women, traumatised persons or unaccompanied minors. The oppressive character of the containers, which have bars in windows and barb-wired fences makes them unsuitable as accommodation of such persons. Housing foreigners in containers may ultimately lead to violations of EU laws on accepting asylum seekers and conditions of detention of foreigners subject to return procedures.

For years, families with children have been the principal group of applicants seeking international protection, including the refugee status, in Poland. It is thus difficult to see any real reasons for the Ministry’s sudden decision to improve security in guarded centres and housing foreigners in containers. We perceive it rather as an expression of goals of migration policies of the current government”, adds Ms Górczyńska.

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