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Forced returns monitoring: no observers allowed?

Following the intervention of the HFHR, the Border Guard has started to notify non-governmental organisations of forced returns of foreigners unaccompanied by Border Guard officers. The agency also undertook to make notice of cases of foreigners returned to land border crossings.

Unfortunately, the proposed procedure for the monitoring of land returns leaves a lot to be desired in terms of its efficiency. In any case, the HFHR is concerned most about two issues: the rule that prevents an observer from boarding the vehicle that is used to transport a foreigner, and somewhat blurred conditions governing the mandatory presence of Border Guard officers during a conversation with a returnee.

“We find it difficult to imagine how we are supposed to actually observe the conduct and behaviour of Border Guard officers towards foreigners if we are not authorised to ride with them in the same vehicle”, explains Małgorzata Jaźwińska, a lawyer working with the HFHR. “The concept of a forced return to a land border crossing is based on the assumption that a foreigner travels to the border in a vehicle. If we are prevented from travelling in the same vehicle together with a foreigner, then we’ll be unable to effectively monitor such a procedure”, she adds.

The HFHR has once again requested the National Border Guard Headquarters to appropriately modify the Guidelines on the presence of representatives of non-governmental organisations during procedures for forced returns of foreigners by land. “Also, we have resubmitted our call for access to returnees’ records, provided they consent to have their records disclosed to us”, Ms Jaźwińska says.

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