What is detention? →
Location of detention centers →
Who could be placed in detention? →
Reasons for detention →
Duration of detention →
Procedure of placing an individual in detention →
Who should not be detained? →
Detention of children →
Legal framework →

What is detention?

Migrants coming to Poland may be incarcerated even if they have not committed any crime. In situations specified under legal regulations they can be placed in detention centers for migrants, i.e. in detention.

Migrants placed in detention centers are deprived of their liberty and have limited contact with the outside world. The maximum standard duration of the visit of the family members is 90 minutes. Migrants may not own or use mobile phones with video or audio recording. In practice, the majority of mobile phones are being recaptured. Access to the Internet, and thus often contact with the family, is also restricted. Newcomers are not allowed to use their electronic devices. In such detention centers, they have to adapt to existing schedules. At the appointed time, meals are served and the presence is inspected in the morning (counting).

Before being admitted, as well as many times during their stay in the detention center, migrants, including children, are subjected to a personal search. They have to take off their clothes, and then their personal belongings and body are inspected for possession of prohibited goods. More about the conditions and regime in the centers can be found in our reports on the monitoring of the centers conducted in 2012 and 2014.

Location of detention centers

There are 6 detention centers for migrants in Poland. They are located in Lesznowola, Kętrzyn, Białystok, Krosno Odrzańskie, Przemyśl and Biała Podlaska.

Three of them, that is, in Kętrzyn, Biała Podlaska and Przemyśl, also accommodate children.

Who could be placed in detention?

Both women and men may may be placed in detention centers for migrants. People with disabilities as well as persons in full strength. Single women, families with children and unaccompanied minors.

Reasons for detention

Immigrants may be placed in detention centers for several reasons. As a rule, this should contribute to the streamlining of the asylum proceedings or to enabling the return.

It should be remembered, however, that a hypothetical possibility to facilitate ongoing proceedings alone cannot justify depriving a person of his/her liberty. Also, the mere fact of applying for international protection cannot automatically result in placing the applicant in a detention center. Placement in detention center will be possible when, among other things, there is a high absconding risk or when they endanger public security.

Specific reasons for placing immigrants in a detention center can be found in Art. 87 (1) of the Act on granting protection to migrants within the territory of the Republic of Poland, as well as in Art. 398a of the Act on migrants.

Deprivation of liberty of a migrant should be applied only as a last resort measure, when it is impossible to apply alternatives to detention.

Duration of detention

Under European and international law, the detention of a migrant on immigration grounds should be applied for the shortest possible period. In Poland it is allowed to detain an applicant for the period of 6 months during the asylum procedure and for the period of 18 months during the return proceedings. Therefore, in total, a migrant who has not committed any crime may be detained for 2 years for immigration reasons.

Procedure of placing an individual in detention

Detention and extension of a stay in a detention center is always determined by a court in the form of an order. In the first instance it is the district court, while in the second instance the case is considered by the regional court.

However, the court does not act on its own initiative. It issues a decision on depriving a migrant of freedom upon the request of the commander of a branch or post of the Border Guard. Without such a request of the Border Guard it is impossible to place the migrant in detention center.

Who should not be detained?

Not all migrants can be placed in detention centers. Polish regulations indicate a certain group of persons who cannot be deprived of liberty during immigration proceedings due to their vulnerability.

It is not allowed to detain:

  1. victims of violence,
  2. persons for whom detention poses danger to life or health,
  3. unaccompanied minors under 15 years of age

Additionally, asylum seekers cannot be deprived of their liberty if they are disabled or are unaccompanied minors regardless of their age.

Detention of children

In Poland it is allowed to place children in detention centers for migrants. Children and their parents may be accommodated in these institutions regardless of their age. In a situation where a minor immigrant is staying in Poland without a guardian, the possibility of detention depends on their age and the type of administrative proceedings that take place against them.

In Poland, for years, NGOs have opposed the detention of children for immigration reasons. There are indications that it is never in the best interests of the child, and that in the long term it may have an effect on their psychophysical development that is difficult to reverse. The effects of detention may still occur during the period of imprisonment, immediately after leaving the detention center, but also long after that experience.

International organizations are also demanding an end to the immigration detention of children, highlighting the trauma that such custody causes.

Legal framework

Detention of migrants on immigration grounds is regulated both at national and international level. In Poland, the main legislative acts relating to these issues are the Act on migrants and the Act on granting international protection to migrants in Poland.

When applying the provisions of national law, it is always necessary to consider the international obligations, in particular those arising from the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as European Union law (Directive 2008/115/EC and Directive 2013/33/EU).