Immigration facility at Lesznowola, Poland | Source: Polish Border Guard
Immigration facility at Lesznowola, Poland | Source: Polish Border Guard

The German NGO, Pro Asyl, has urged the government to halt the deportation of asylum seekers from Germany back to Poland, citing concerns over conditions in detention centers and violations of international law.

Pro Asyl has called on the German government not to deport any asylum seekers from Germany back to Poland under the so-called Dublin III Regulation, and to take over the asylum procedures of the asylum seekers concerned.

Human rights concerns over returns to Poland

The Dublin Regulation (sometimes referred to as Dublin III) is a European Union law that determines which country is responsible for examining an asylum application – normally the country where the asylum seeker first entered Europe. Under the so-called Dublin procedure, asylum seekers who have traveled on to Germany from an EU country should, as a rule, be deported back to the country where they first entered the EU.

At the start of the war in Ukraine, Poland stopped these Dublin re-admissions in February 2022 - but is ready to accept transfers from other EU countries again as of Monday, August 1, 2022. However, human rights organizations have raised concerns of the treatment and detention of asylum seekers in Poland.

"Poland has a massive rule of law problem, and the asylum reception conditions there are contrary to human rights. Asylum seekers are systematically locked up in camps that are worse than prisons - simply because they have filed an asylum application," Karl Kopp, Head of Europe at Pro Asyl said in a statement.

"In view of the Polish government's systematic violations of European and international law, asylum seekers must not be sent back to such conditions under any circumstances."

Refugees face automatic detention

Detention in such camps also threatens asylum seekers who are sent back from Germany to Poland under the Dublin procedure. Polish lawyers confirm this and point out that the use of detention in the Polish asylum procedure is automatic and is applied as a rule.

The AIDA Report Poland 2021 (Update May 2022), states that the courts often claim that applying alternatives to detention is impossible, as asylum seekers cross the border unlawfully and there is a risk of escape, they do not have a regular place of residence or savings, ignoring the fact that asylum seekers are entitled to stay in reception centers and receive pocket money.

The UN Special Rapporteur Felipe González Morales denounced this practice as recently as July 29 and called on Poland to immediately release at least unaccompanied children, children with their families, pregnant women, and people with mental illnesses to open facilities.

Violation of international law

Hanna Machińska, Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights in Poland, addressed the EU Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee in February 2022, calling conditions at the Wędrzyn detention center (600 people), for example, untenable and saying, "Wędrzyn should be wiped off the Polish map. It is the worst place."

"It's not about individual failures or misconduct by individuals responsible, but about systemic deficiencies in the Polish asylum system," Kopp said.

"In addition, asylum seekers who fled to Germany via Poland experienced brutal violence at the Polish-Belarusian border: They were victims of violence and rejections by Polish border officials in violation of international law," he added.

Also read: Poland completes Belarus border wall to prevent migrant crossings

Stark contrast in treatment

Following a recent visit to Poland, Felipe Gonzalez Morales praised the EU country for its hospitality toward Ukrainian refugees. However, he also pointed out the "starkly different" treatment of asylum seekers and migrants coming from other countries.

Poland has welcomed over 1.2 million people (including 291,168 so-called third-country nationals) fleeing the war in Ukraine. According to the UN expert however, non-Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war are reportedly not getting same kind of the welcome and assistance.

In addition, Poland continues to turn away Middle Eastern and other migrants and refugees seeking to enter the European Union via Belarus. According to Gonzalez Morales, although the situation has improved significantly this year, some migrants are still getting stranded in the border forest region, where they often are left to their own devices.

Also read: UN report decries 'double standard' for non-Ukrainian refugees in Poland

Concerns over conditions in detention centers

In the detention centers that Poland expanded last year, people sometimes have less space than the EU prescribes for prisoners. In addition, those seeking asylum receive hardly any counseling, information and translations, virtually no medical care and have hardly any opportunity to communicate with family, lawyers and supporters via the Internet. As a result, they miss important legal deadlines and their families are left in the dark as to whether they are even still alive.

Also read: Migrants in Polish detention center stage hunger protest


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