During the refugee procedure, foreigners should be informed in a language which they understand about the obligation to appear at the interview and the consequences of their failure to appear. The obligation to translate the instructions results directly from the law.
The Voivodship Administrative Court in its judgment of April 19, 2021, file ref. IV SA/Wa 2446/20 repealed the decision of the Council for Refugees and the preceding decision of the Head of the Office for Foreigners.
The case concerned the discontinuation of the procedure for granting international protection to a foreigner who does not speak Polish. The proceedings were discontinued because the foreigner did not appear at the interview. In the opinion of the Head of the Office for Foreigners, if the summons to appear at the interview was correctly delivered in Polish, and yet the foreigner did not appear at the interview, it was justified to discontinue the proceedings. This view was shared by the Council for Refugees, who did not consider the foreigner’s appeal. In the appeal, he showed that he did not understand the summons he had received in Polish and that the summons had not been translated into the language he indicated as the understandable language.
The Association for Legal Intervention helped in the preparation of a complaint to the administrative court. The complaint alleged violation of art. 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CAP), Art. 9 of the CAP and art. 11 of the CAP in connection with art. 12 sec. 1 letter A of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of June 26, 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection. The complainant indicated that he would have appeared for interview if he had received summon to appear at the interview translated into Georgian.
The Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw partially upheld the applicant’s arguments. The reason for allowing the complaint was the lack of evidence in the case file that the applicant had been instructed in Georgian about the obligation to appear for interview and about the consequences of this violation, which was to discontinue the proceedings.
In the case it is not disputed that the applicant should be informed of the far-reaching and negative consequences of failing to appear at the interview without justification, such as the assumption that the application is withdrawn, which entails the discontinuation of the proceedings. The obligation of such instruction results directly from art. 30 sec. 1 point 5 letter B of the Protection Act, and is also confirmed by, among others, in art. 9 of the CAP interpreted in conjunction with art. 12 sec. 1 letter A and Directive 2013/32/EU.
The ruling emphasized that although there is no obligation to conduct the proceedings in a language understood by foreigners, they should be provided with access to a fair procedure, which includes awareness of individual rights and obligations. In the opinion of the Provincial Administrative Court, foreigners cannot be required to fulfill their obligations without providing them with instructions translated into a language they understand.
Legal assistance in the case was provided by legal counsel Magdalena Sadowska.