Association for Legal Intervention has been providing support to the most vulnerable groups in Poland since 2005. We have significantly grown in 2022,  we are now a team of 30 persons: experts, legal practitioners, activists, case managers, coordinators and researchers. In our everyday work we are supported by a group of 25 wonderful volunteers. 

In a world of quickly changing  migration dynamics and movement of people becoming an increasingly  controversial topic, we continue to do what we do best: using legal tools to fight injustice and strengthen respect for human rights for everybody disregard of their nationality, legal status, religion or ethnic background. 

We would not be able to do  it without you. Thank you for believing in us and in our mission. Please see a brief overview of what we consider our impact in 2022. 

Ukrainian war response 

After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine we reorganized our structures in order to best address the needs of those fleeing the war. 

  • Very early on  we launched an online platform offering:
    • reliable legal information on law amendments 
    • swift legal advice via an online form
    • trainings on migration and asylum law
    • answers to Frequently Asked Questions updated regularly in 3 languages. 

We have managed to reach  more than 420 000 persons with our platform so far and its popularity continues to rise (ca. 2000 pageviews/day).

  • We have provided legal aid to over 3000 persons fleeing Ukraine and trained 700 persons engaged in supporting war refugees: activists, volunteers, aid workers etc. 
  • We obtained a key ruling guaranteeing an effective access to judicial review for Ukrainian asylum seekers. The Polish Supreme Administrative Court, for the first time, acknowledged that the court needs to take under consideration the outbreak of the war even though it had happened after the ruling of Ist instance court had been issued. In Poland, as a rule, the Supreme Administrative Court can only review whether the law was properly applied and interpreted by the courts of lower instances. They do not analyze nor take under consideration the changes in factual situation emerging after the ruling of the court of Ist instance.
  • We have been regularly  visiting 8 accommodation centers for  most vulnerable persons fleeing Ukraine: people with disabilities, Roma, non-UA nationals. 
  • We have issued 9 written submissions to various decision-makers/authorities pointing out incorrect  implementation or application of the law as well as asked the European Commission to review the Polish implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive. 

Polish – Belarussian border 

In 2022 we continued provision of humanitarian assistance and strategic litigation to asylum seekers and vulnerable persons at the Polish-Belarussian border, where a new border wall does not prevent people from crossing the border, but only makes the journey more dangerous.  We lodged several complaints to the European Court of Human Rights against the illegal push-backs. Some of these were already communicated  (R.A. and others v. Poland), yet the majority are still waiting for the communication and several requests for interim measures. We also trained and mentored local activists on a regular basis. 

We managed to secure some key court judgements:

  • Poland`s first court ruling confirming that push-backs are illegal and inhumane. The case concerned 3 Afghans asking for asylum who were arrested for illegal border crossing, transported to Border Guard Post and later pushed back to Belarus. The District Court in Hajnówka ruled that their arrest was illegal,  unjustified and incorrect. Additionally the Court questioned the validity of the regulation which is cited by the Border Guard as a legal basis for push-backs. Currently, we are seeking compensation for illegal arrest for our clients.  
  • Judgement confirming that refugees who cross the border illegally are not committing a crime. The Court discontinued criminal proceedings for illegal border crossing against a Belarusian refugee. The man was accused of illegal border crossing in collusion with other persons. He did so because as a person persecuted by the Belarussian regime, he was not able to cross the border legally.  We convinced the court that the Geneva Convention prohibits penalization of illegal border crossing by refugees. 
  • 5 judgements stating explicitly that the new pushback legislation violates the non-refeulement rule. Administrative court quashed decisions ordering persons arrested immediately after illegal border crossing to leave Poland. The court confirmed the priority of the non-refoulement  principle in the context of Polish-Belarussian crisis pointing out numerous serious human rights breaches by Belarussian forces. One case  is still pending before the Supreme Administrative Court. 
  • One of the first interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights concerning push-backs on the Polish-Belarussian border (cooperation  with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights). An interim measure, obtained  in the case R.A. and others v. Poland  concerned a group of Afghans stranded in Usnarz Górny  between Polish and Belarussian armed forces. Neither Poland nor Belarus were willing to let the asylum seekers in. The interim measure obtained brought about a surge of other successful interim requests made by various lawyers. 

Migration detention 

In 2022 around 2000 persons, including 210 children, were placed in immigration detention centers. The conditions in detention facilities deteriorated significantly, including the decrease of minimum personal space per person to 2 square meters. We undertook a number of activities in order to prevent illegal and prolonged detentions.

  • We launched a training programme for 25 legal professionals – Detention Legal Hub. The aim of the programme is to train, mentor and bring together practitioners ready  to provide free of charge assistance in detention centers.
  • We represented asylum seekers and migrants in detention proceedings. In 2022 in the majority of cases litigated by us, migrants were released from detention by national courts. 
  • We continued to make illegal detention a problem for decision-makers: we lodged 9 compensation claims and applications to the European Court of Human Rights for illegal detention of vulnerable migrants (survivors of violence, families with children, women who miscarried while detained, asylum seekers apprehended on the Polish-Belarussian border, persons with disabilities, unaccompanied minors). 
  • Within last year we won  compensations for illegal migration detention of unaccompanied minor (who as an unaccompanied minor and asylum seeker could not be held in detention) and for a family of survivors of violence. 
  • Additionally, recently the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling in our case R.M. and others v. Poland concerning arbitrary immigration detention of a family of asylum seekers. 
  • We alarmed  national stakeholders such as Polish Ombudsperson, penitentiary judges and Supreme Chamber of Controls (NIK) about irregularities in detention facilities. As a result one of the detention facility, providing for the lowest standards  (Wędrzyn) was closed
  • In response to growing material and psychosocial needs of people in detention, we established a team of young activists with the aim of mapping available resources (food, clothes, shoes, books, personal hygiene articles)  and creating networks between people in detention, volunteers, and organizations/institutions with resources. The team supported detainees with casework  (890 persons),  facilitated their access to medical and psychological assistance and other services and organized distribution of packages with NFIs (340 packages). 

Asylum seekers and non-returnable migrants 

  • We represented asylum seekers and non-returnable migrants in proceedings before administrative authorities and courts. We secured a number of positive decisions and rulings concerning asylum seekers from for example Tajikistan (members of Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan), Burundi (survivor of sexual violence), Congo (member of opposition party), Iraq (opposition writer and journalist), Ukrainians, Belarussians (members of the opposition or participants in the anti-regime riots), Guinea (unaccompanied minor whose parents died during the military coup).  In one of our cases the Supreme Administrative Court confirmed that well integrated children should not be deported regardless of whether their parents violated migration rules. 
  • We commit to improving the quality of asylum procedures with the measures we have accessible. Due to our strategic litigation efforts  it was finally established that asylum seekers have a right to an interpreter while contacting their lawyer. The Supreme Administrative Court ruled that costs of translation must be reimbursed for an attorney representing asylum seeker before administrative authority of second instance. 
  • We are seeing more and more persons being refused residence permits, asylum, going through deportation or having their refugee status revoked due to safety reasons. In some cases the safety reasons are invoked after minor, unintentional  offences. In 2022 we represented a number of such persons. We secured a ruling stating that even when a person is suspected of terroristic activities the non-refoulement rule must be respected. It changed the way a deportation procedure is carried out. Before the ruling the mere fact that a person might conduct terroristic activities was enough to deport them  even if they were not safe in their country of origin.

Empowering civil society 

We have been  distributing funding to a number of Polish civil society organisations since 2018 but in 2022 we  significantly increased our activity in this area. The war in Ukraine and a crisis at the Polish Belarussian border „attracted”  new actors to our sector, both donors and new non-governmental initiatives. Thanks to our good reputation, visibility and strong  governance we were able to support  11  organisations through regranting in 2022.   We also provided trainings and consultations to numeorus civil society formal and informal initiatives. 

Challenges we are facing in 2023

  • Ongoing humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarussian border, no effective access to asylum on the border and the violation of non-refoulement principle. Persons crossing Polish-Belarussian border are still at risk of push-back even after having asked  for asylum in Poland. Due to the systemic push-backs asylum seekers are afraid to contact authorities which in turn  leaves many of them in extremely precarious situation. 38 deaths on the Polish border have been  confirmed so far. 
  • Reception of persons fleeing war in Ukraine. With the outbreak of war in Ukraine around 10 million persons crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border seeking protection with around 2 million staying in Poland. It created a number of problems with access to services, accommodation, legal status. Additionally, the law changed extremely frequently leaving many people unable to keep up to date. 
  • Ongoing immigration detention of children and other vulnerable persons. Despite a large volume of  research on the detrimental effect of immigration detention on the well-being and development of children, in Poland children continue  to be detained. Moreover, survivors of violence, asylum seekers and persons with disabilities are also placed in immigration detention  due to ineffective screening and identification mechanisms. 
  • Deteriorating conditions in detention centers. The personal space per one detained migrant decreased to 2 square meters. Despite the lack of sufficient psychologists and psychological assistance in detention facilities, since 2022 external psychologists are no longer allowed in detention centers. It further deteriorates access to psychological assistance for detained migrants. 
  • Increase in numbers of hate crimes and cases of abour exploitation  – violations extremely difficult to litigate due to the lack of firewall. Persons experiencing them do not want to use legal measures  and thus the perpetrators go unpunished. There is a need for multi-stakeholders cooperation and national prevention programmes, however current authorities are not willing to commit to solve these problems.