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Rights of foreigners seeking protection in Poland are not respected

The HFHR has presented a commentary on key events in the area of international protection in Poland in 2017 to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

The European Asylum Support Office is an agency of the European Union that oversees whether individual cases involving international protection within the EU are treated consistently by all the Member States.

In the presented commentary the HFHR noted a number of serious violations of rights of persons seeking international protection. These include, among other issues, access to the asylum procedure at the border, access to information and legal aid, deprivation of liberty of persons from vulnerable groups and the right to defence.

Closed-door policy at border crossings 

Polish authorities violate the right of foreigners to seek international protection by preventing them from filing applications at border crossings across the Eastern border, for instance in Terespol and Medyka. In 2017 the Provincial Administrative Court recorded 34 complaints about the actions of the Border Guard made mostly by residents of Chechnya and Tajikistan.

In June 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) communicated to the Polish government as many as four cases regarding access to asylum and complaints filed by families from Chechnya and Syrian citizens. These individuals were forcibly returned from Terespol to Belarus despite the ECtHR’s decision commanding the Border Guard to apply interim measures and abstain from expelling foreigners from Poland until the cases are heard by the ECtHR.

Access to information and legal aid

The HFHR indicated in its report for EASO that it is very difficult for individuals seeking an asylum to obtain access to legal aid. The government is still restricting funds from the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund that should be made available for non-governmental organisations that have been providing such assistance so far. In September 2017, the HFHR and the Association for Legal Intervention published a report on the state of the legal aid infrastructure and on the integration of refugees and migrants in the conditions of limited public support.

Persons demanding special treatment are placed in guarded centres

In the commentary sent to EASO, the HFHR has also noted that individuals seeking protection and other migrants who have fallen victim to violence are still, under Polish law, placed in guarded centres. The Border Guard fail to properly identify victims of violence when arresting foreigners and fail to respond to signals saying that a given person should not be placed in a closed facility. An example of these failures is, among other cases, the case of a Tajikistani woman, who, along with her children, was placed in a closed facility for 10 months despite numerous expert reports indicating her poor psychological condition.

“Security risk” foreigners suffered from violation of right to defence

Ameer Alkhawlany, an Iraqi doctoral student of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków was deported to Iraq in April 2017. He was denied international protection in Poland on grounds of national security. Mr Alkhawlany requested a judicial review of the decision. During the court proceedings that followed, he and his attorney did not have access to sealed case files. In November 2017 the first-instance Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw dismissed Mr Alkhawlany’s complaint against the decision. The HFHR and the Commissioner for Human Rights filed a complaint in cassation against the PAC judgment.

The HFHR’s commentary for 2017 (in English) may be viewed here.

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