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HFHR lawyers visited guarded centres for foreigners

In response to the protests of foreigners detained in guarded centres operated by the Border Guards, the Foundation’s lawyers paid visits to the centres in Białystok and Lesznowola and a detention centre housing foreigners pending expulsion. The visits took place on 22-26 October.

“Our goal was to interview the protesting and non-protesting foreigners staying in the centres and make a preliminary diagnosis of the problems underlying the protests”, says Karolina Rusiłowicz, a HFHR’s lawyer. “During our visits we also provided information and legal aid to the foreigners”, adds Ms Rusiłowicz.

From what the Foundation’s lawyers found out so far the main cause of complaints is the strict prison-like regime applied in the centres. All centres’ windows, also those in playrooms for children, have bars on them and foreigners’ rooms are searched once a week. The foreigners also complained of the improper attitude of Border Guards officers who often give them short, brusque orders. They also stressed the lack of appropriate legal aid in the centres.

“Many people staying in these centres have no understanding of their rights in particular procedures and relevant rules governing procedures they are subject to”, says Ms Rusiłowicz. For instance, a majority of Białystok centre’s inmates applied for a refugee status in Poland or filed a motion for a voluntarily return to their home countries. However, administrative proceedings pending in their cases were excessively long which prolonged their stay in the centre.

Therefore, the HFHR has grown concerned over the modifications contained in a draft of the new law on foreigners which was sent to NGOs as part of the public consultations process.

The bill proposes regulations that would result in a longer period of foreigner detention without any upper limit of the detention period. The maximum detention period for foreigners placed in a guarded centre is 12 months, irrespective of the proceedings pending in their case.

The draft of the new law states that the duration of the proceedings for the award of the refugee status won’t be counted towards a 12-month maximum period of detention. “Considering the fact that such proceedings are long-lasting and have no maximum time-limits, the duration of the foreigners stay in a guarded centre will be potentially unlimited”, warns Ms Rusiłowicz.

From 5 November onwards, the Foundation and the Association for Legal Intervention will be conducting the monitoring of conditions in guarded centres. The simultaneous monitoring will be carried out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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