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Tear gas used at immigration centre in Biała Podlaska. HFHR comments

On 6 April, foreigners placed at the guarded immigration centre in Biała Podlaska informed the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights about their food strike against the expulsion of a Chechen family (mother and two children). The strike was also staged in protest at the events of the night of 5 April and early morning of 6 April, when Border Guard officers used direct coercive measures and deployed tear gas against foreigners placed at the centre.

The local Border Guard Unit published on its website a press release on the officers’ actions at the centre. According to the release, in the early hours of 6 April, several foreign nationals staying at the centre attacked officers performing official duties. In response, direct coercive measures were used against the attackers. Border Guard officers deployed tear gas against the foreigners, handcuffed them and placed them in solitary confinement.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights expresses no assessment of whether the officers’ decision to use direct coercive measures was or was not justified by circumstances but strongly condemns the deployment of tear gas on the premises of a centre that hosts families with children. According to information obtained by the HFHR, women and children were among persons who required medical attention in the aftermath of the deployment of gas.

It must be remembered that pursuant to the Direct Coercive Measures Act the measures should be used as a proportional response to a threat and the least severe measure must always be selected. In the HFHR’s opinion, the deployment of tear gas, which affects not only potentially resisting foreigners but also the families with children staying at the centre, is not a correct manner of enforcing officers’ orders given to three foreign nationals.

Considering the above, we call on the Ministry of the Interior and Administration and the Prosecution Service to perform a thorough inquiry into the events that unfolded in the morning of 6 April on the premises of the guarded centre for foreigners in Biała Podlaska, including the use of direct coercive measures by Border Guard officers.

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