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HFHR intervenes in case of detention of father with two children

♦ The HFHR has participated as a social organisation in the proceedings pending before the District Court in Biała Podlaska. The case involves an extension of immigration detention of a single father with two children.

♦ According to the HFHR, immigration detention centres, which are oppressive, quasi-prison facilities, are not an appropriate place for children.

♦ Prolonged detention of children, applied in the course of administrative proceedings brought against the family may lead to violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Case history

X, a Russian national, came to Poland with two children, a four-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. Citing the persecution he suffered in his country of origin, he applied for international protection in Poland. In the course of the pending proceedings, the family moved to Germany, from where it was surrendered to Poland pursuant to the Dublin III Regulation.

After X and his children were surrendered to Poland, the District Court in Słubice decided to place them in a guarded centre for foreigners for the duration of the ongoing asylum proceedings. The family has been placed at the guarded centre in Biała Podlaska, one of three immigration detention facilities in Poland designed to host families with children. These facilities have an oppressive and prison-like regime, and – as the HFHR has been long argued – are not a place for children.

The Biała Podlaska court extended has twice extended the family’s detention, but either failed to address the welfare of X’s children or has done so in a very cursory manner. When ordering to put the family in detention, the court based its decision solely on statements given by the Border Guard, which pointed to the absence to any contraindications to further detention of the children. Meanwhile, the medical records kept by the centre reveal that the children badly respond to being confined. A psychiatric evaluation showed that the boy suffered from a mental disturbance. Anti-anxiety and sedative drugs were prescribed to alleviate his condition. In the meantime, X presented a certificate from a doctor who took care of the family during their stay in Germany, according to which the children suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and should be allowed to continue the treatment started in Germany. Despite X’s submissions showing the deteriorating health of his children and the negative impact of detention on their psychological and physical condition, the Border Guard refused to release the family from the guarded centre, and the District Court in Biała Podlaska upheld this decision.

HFHR intervenes

In the anticipation of the subsequent court hearing on another extension of the family’s immigration detention, which was scheduled for 4 July 2019, the HFHR decided to intervene in the proceedings as a social organisation and present its position on the matter.

A Foundation’s representative referred to the standards of international law that require that the best interests of the child must be protected in all proceedings concerning minors. She also noted the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Bistieva v. Poland, in which the Court found that Poland violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the prolonged immigration detention of a family of foreigners with three children.

The HFHR is also concerned over the fact that the immigration proceedings concerning the foreigner’s compulsory return, which are the very reason of the family’ detention in the guarded centre, have been prolonged without the foreigner’s fault. Polish immigration authorities informed X that due to a large number of cases currently being examined, it would not be possible to consider his appeal within the time limit specified in the provisions of the Code of Administrative Procedure. Thus, the date will not be resolved until September.

The HFHR requested to be admitted to the proceedings because of the need to protect vital interests in the area of liberty and human rights. The court granted our request to intervene and heard our arguments, but ultimately granted the request of the Border Guard and extended the immigration detention of X and his children for another 3 months. The HFHR continues to be involved in the case.

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