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Report: rights of citizens returning to their country of origin

No access of citizens and their lawyers to case files, placing foreign children in guarded centres and sending Syrians back to Greece are the key problems accompanying the return procedure.

This procedure ends up with migrants returning to their countries of origin, either based on a decision forcing them to leave Poland or out of their own free will.

Within the last three years HFHR lawyers helped over 1,000 foreigners who had to return to their country of origin. Drawing from this experience and a review of laws the Foundation’s lawyers have prepared a report “Returns. The observations of the Legal Aid Programme for Refugees and Migrants of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights regarding the observance of the rights of foreigners returning to their country of origin”.

An important obstacle in carrying out a return procedure is the issue of access to files in cases involving an obligation to return. Under applicable laws a foreigner who is considered a threat to the state’s security may be denied access to important parts of his case files. Also the state may decide against drawing up a complete statement of reasons for its decision. “In our opinion, such regulations do not meet the standards of fair proceedings and give rise to controversies as to their compliance with the Polish Constitution, the ECHR and EU law”, explains Jacek Białas, an HFHR lawyer. He adds: “A foreigner who has been considered a threat to the state’s security has no possibility of effectively challenging this decision, as he has no idea on what grounds it has been taken”.

For years the HFHR has been arguing that minor foreigners should not be placed at guarded centres for foreigners only due to the migration situation of them or their families. Nevertheless, minors are still a large group of foreigners placed in such facilities. “The monitoring of guarded centres for foreigners shows that minors account for between 20 and 25% of all the foreigners placed in them”, points out Małgorzata Jaźwińska, an HFHR lawyer. “Despite positive changes in the manner in which guarded centres operate, detention still has far-reaching and negative consequences for the proper development of children”.

During the monitoring of return operations HFHR lawyers discovered that some foreigners, mostly from Syria and Iraq, are sent to Greece. “Because of serious shortcomings in the asylum system in Greece, EU Member States suspended the transfer of foreigners applying for a refugee status to this country”, says Mr Białas.

“In our opinion such policy of the Polish Border Guard may be designed to circumvent laws and the ban on the transfer of foreigners introduced under Dublin III Regulation”, notes Daniel Witko, an HFHR lawyer. “From our perspective it is also incomprehensible why persons coming from Syria or Iraq are not granted a permit to stay for humanitarian reasons”, adds Mr Witko.

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