SIP brought a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of a family who had been held in guarded centres for foreigners for more than 6 months.

The case concerns a family from Iraq (parents with two children) who crossed the Polish-Belarusian border. The family spent a total of 21 days at the border. During this time it was pushed back across the border 7 times by the Polish services (push-back). Their stay at the border was a traumatic experience for the whole family; in particular, it had a negative impact on the physical and mental health of two children. The foreigners experienced violence from the Belarusian Border Guard.

After crossing the border, the family was placed in the Guarded Centre for Foreigners in Lesznowola, where they applied for international protection. After 4 months, the family was transferred to the Guarded Detention Centre for Foreigners in Kętrzyn. Altogether the family was in detention for more than 6 months. A long-term stay in the guarded centre for foreigners had a negative impact on the psychological condition of children and deepened their trauma related to the circumstances of crossing the Polish-Belarusian border. One of the children has been struggling with health problems since the moment of detention.  

In our application to the ECoHR, we have indicated that by placing in a guarded centre for foreigners persons who are victims of violence, as well as underage children, Poland has violated the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. Both the Border Guard and national courts ignored the fact that the family had experienced violence and therefore, according to Polish law, should not have been placed in a guarded centre for foreigners at all. The state authorities also by no means considered the best interests of the minor children. Furthermore, the placement of foreigners in detention was arbitrary, was not a measure of last resort, and violated the right to family life of foreigners. We also raised the allegation that the procedural rights of foreigners were violated by, inter alia, failing to bring them to the dates of the hearings and refusing to examine the evidence submitted. The complaint also alleges that Poland violated children’s right to education. There were no classes held in the Guarded Centre for Foreigners in Lesznowola and the foreigners were not allowed to leave the centre (e.g. to go to school).

We are waiting for the case to be referred to the European Court of Human Rights.

The case is being handled by trainee legal adviser Zuzanna Kaciupska and attorney-at-law Małgorzata Jaźwińska.