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Organisations warn about a difficult situation of migrant children in Poland

On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, Amnesty International, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Polish Humanitarian Action and the Association for Legal Intervention warn about a difficult situation of migrant children in Poland.

In 2011, more than 500 foreign children, including refugee children, and their guardians were detained and placed in guarded centres for foreigners. The duration of their stay in such facilities may be as long as 12 months and entails an actual deprivation of liberty as such centres are patterned after prison facilities. “Children, in particular unattended ones, should not be placed in detention only because they are foreigners”, says Agnieszka Kunicka, Polish Humanitarian Action.

Under its international obligations, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child or EU legal regulations, Poland is obliged to respect the rights of children, including migrant children. Despite this, Polish courts issue orders to place families with children in guarded centres without considering the impact of the stay in such facilities on children. The courts even go as far as to justify their decisions by invoking the best interests of the child.

Children staying in guarded centres for foreigners do not go to school but attend limited-curriculum courses held on the centre’s premises. “The European Court of Human Rights says that minors placed at detention centres are exposed to unjustified suffering.  What is more, even a short-term detention of children may cause irreparable damage to their mental state and lead to psychological disorders”, says Katarzyna Słubik, the Association for Legal Intervention.

Polish non-governmental organisations run a campaign to abolish the placement of foreign children in guarded facilities. “We propose the introduction of alternative, non-custodial measures such as assigned residence or a duty to periodically report to a competent body”, says Jacek Białas, HFHR.

On this occasion the NGOs also remind that the abolition action is nearing completion. Only until 2 July foreigners seeking to legalise their stay in Poland can submit an application to a relevant Province Governor. This applies to foreigners staying in Poland illegally and those who unsuccessfully applied for a refugee status, provided they meet specified requirements. Currently, foreigners have filed almost 7,700 applications, more than during the two previous abolition actions combined.

The non-governmental organisations find such an initiative praiseworthy. Also, they call on to incorporate a permanent abolition mechanism in a statute. Such a mechanism would allow the authorities to legalise foreigner’s stay following the satisfactory completion of specified requirements.

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