For years, we have been fighting against the wrongful detention of children on grounds of immigration. This is never in the best interests of the child, and can cause long-term effects on their psycho-physical development that are difficult to reverse. The effects of detention can occur while still in custody, immediately after leaving the detention centre, and many years after the experience. We represent families with children in courts that decide about depriving them of their liberty, we represent them in proceedings for compensation for wrongful deprivation of liberty, and we also fight for their rights in the European Court of Human Rights. The Court has just announced another case against Poland in which we are actively involved (Z.E. and Others v. Poland, no. 4457/18).

The case concerns a mother with four children. They spent more than 10 months in a guarded centre for foreigners, which they were not allowed to leave. Despite numerous complaints about the deteriorating mental state of one of the children, the Border Guard did not release the family from detention. It was only after obtaining an expert opinion, which indicated that the boy was suffering from depression, chronic psychological problems, as well as withdrawal and isolation, and that his further detention would not be in his best interests, that the family was released from the guarded centre by the court.

The applicants indicated that their rights to family life, freedom from torture and unlawful detention had been violated. Prolonged deprivation of liberty did indeed have a negative impact on the psychological state of the children. Moreover, according to Polish law, the woman should not have been placed in a guarded centre at all due to her experience of domestic violence. Other measures could have been applied to the family to ensure the proper course of the proceedings that involved them, which did not include deprivation of liberty. However, this had not been appropriately taken into account. The family also claimed that their procedural rights had been violated. They had not received a request to extend their detention and had not been provided with ex officio legal aid, and their case had been heard by the court with considerable delay.

The European Court of Human Rights communicated the case of Z.E. et al. v. Poland to the Polish government asking, inter alia, whether the family had been afforded a fair trial and whether the prohibition of torture, other inhuman or degrading treatment had been violated.

The family is represented before the European Court of Human Rights by Małgorzata Jaźwińska, a lawyer cooperating with the Association for Legal Intervention.

Photo: Adrian Grycuk, CC BY-SA 3.0 PL, via Wikimedia Commons