Poland has extensive borders that are difficult to control. As a result, it has had to make real efforts in terms of border controls in order to become a member of the European Union (1st May 2004) and Schengen (31st December 2007).
Migrants that enter Poland are largely seasonal migrants from ex-Soviet countries (Ukraine, Bielorussia) who are searching for work in the agriculture and building sectors or asylum seekers from the Russian federation (Chechnya, Ingushy). For these asylum seekers, Poland is considered as a transit country on their way to countries further West. However, it could become a host country as a result of the consequences of the implementation of Dublin II and of the increasing needs of workforce in some sectors of Polish economy.
Law on Foreigners
As part of its EU accession process, Poland has been changing its national legislation in compliance with EU requirements. The main laws about foreigners are the following laws, ratified on 13 June 2003:
– Law on Foreigners 
– Asylum Law 
These laws were recently modified by a law that entered into force on 29 May 2008  (the changes made were not added to the English version of the 2003 Laws). The authority in charge of entry and sojourn of foreigners and asylum is the Foreigners’ Office , placed under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. Figures are available on the Foreigners’ Office website (http://www.udsc.gov.pl/Statistics,275.html) and on the government’s website: www.sg.gov.pl (statistics on removals).
There are currently two types of protection in Poland : refugee status and “tolerated stay” (pobyt tolerowany) which was renamed “complementary protection” under the 2008 law. Before that, most asylum seekers were granted a “tolerated stay” valid for a year which did not allow them to have access to integration programmes benefiting only status refugees. The 2008 law was supposed to respond to these shortcomings by transforming “tolerated stay” into “complementary protection”, enabling asylum seekers to have access to these integration programmes. However, Polish organisations assisting asylum seekers have expressed their doubts regarding this right to access in practice.
Asylum seekers are usually accommodated in open centres specifically designed for this purpose . However, they are sometimes detained, particularly those who have been sent back to Poland in application of Dublin II. Single men are often detained, but families can be too, and the opening of four guarded foreigners’ centres with family facilities in 2008 will most likely increase the use of detention of asylum seekers.
According to articles 40 to 42 of the Foreigners Law (articles 87 to 89 since the implementation of the new law) , anyone illegally crossing the border shall be detained. The maximum length of detention is 12 months.
There are two types of detention centres for foreigners :
– “Guarded Centres for Aliens” which are under the authority of the Border Police. Until 2008, there was only one centre of this type, the Lezslowola centre, which can hold 132 people and has facilities for families. Recently, Polish authorities built four new centres of this kind with the financial support of the European Union.
– Removal centres that are under the authority of the police or the border police.
These centres are usually used for detaining foreigners under certain conditions (if there is a fear for example that the foreigner will not respect the rules that apply in guarded centres. In practice, foreigners are detained in removal centres or guarded centers without distinction, on the basis of where there is space.
Living conditions in these detention centres are very poor, especially in removal centres where migrants are kept in very small cells. Their liberty is seriously restricted and the rules applied are identical to those applied in prisons: access to outside facilities and right of visit limited, risk of solitary confinement, absence of recreational activities .
Detainees are very isolated and their access to the outside world is very limited. Access to information on their rights and right to legal assistance are insufficient, especially in centres that are not visited by Polish NGOs providing legal assistance.
The organisations Halina Niec Human Rights Association and Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. conduct visits in some detention centres for migrants but they don’t have the capacity to go to every centre.
In theory, detainees should have the right to have access to telephone but because this access can only be guaranteed upon purchase of telephone cards, it is in practice limited.
There is some medical assistance in these centres but it is considered by Polish NGOs as seriously insufficient. There is no mental health counselling.
Situation of minors
Minors can be detained with their family in guarded centres for foreigners. Unaccompanied minors are not usually detained but accommodated in open centres (in two orphanages based in Warsaw) in a special unit for unaccompanied minors.
Poland signed the following readmission agreements  :
With EU countries: Germany (01/05/1991); Austria (30/05/2005); Belgium (01/05/1991); Bulgaria (04/02/1994); Spain (23/06/2004); Greece (05/05/1996); Hungary (05/08/1995); Ireland (12/05/2001).
Signed agreement but not implement yet: Lithuania (08/01/2000); Luxemburg (01/05/1991); Holland (01/05/1991); Czech Republic (30/10/1993); Romania (19/01/1994); Slovakia (12/11/1993); Slovenia (06/04/1998); Sweden (09/04/1999); Switzerland (31/03/2006);
With Central and Eastern European countries: Russia (15/02/1961: ex-USSR); Ukraine (10/04/1994); Croatia (27/05/1995); Macedonia, Moldova (28/05/1995).
On Right to Asylum : « Les gens de Dublin II » - Cimade 2008 http://www.cimade.org/publications/24
Etude pour le Parlement européen sur les « Conditions des ressortissants de pays tiers retenus dans des centres (camps de détention, centres ouverts, ainsi que des zones de transit), décembre 2007.
Country Report Poland: http://www.cimade.org/uploads/File/admin/Rapport_%20Pologne.pdf
Projet de rapport de la délégation de la Commission des libertés civiles, de la justice et des affaires intérieures du Parlement Européen concernant sa visite en Pologne - RAPPORTEUR: Wolfgang KREISSL-DÖRFLER - Avril 2008.
DAKIN, Lloyd, Etre réfugié (Byc uchodzca), UNHCR Europe Centrale - Budapest août 2007.
Detention country profile Poland: http://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/poland/introduction.html
UNHCR Representation in Poland
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Warszawa 00-556, Al. Róż 2
tel: (22) 628 69 30, 625 61 46; fax: (22) 625 61 24
Office for Repatriation and Aliens
Warszawa 00-564, ul. Koszykowa 16
tel: 601 74 01/02/03; fax: (22) 601 74 13
Warszawa 00-556, Aleja Róż 2,
tel. (22) 52 00 421, fax: (22) 520 04 22
The Commanding Officer in Chief of Borderguards
Warszawa 00-562, ul.Koszykowa 16
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Warszawa 00-831, ul. Twarda 44/24
tel: 652 03 57; fax: 620 67 82
Non-governmental Organizations assisting refugees
Polish Humanitarian Organization
Counseling Center for Refugees
Warszawa 00-031, ul. Szpitalna 5/3
tel: (22) 828 88 82;
fax: (22) 831 99 38, 828 88 82 w.217
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Warszawa 00-018, ul. Zgoda 11
tel: (22) 828 69 96, 828 10 08, 556 44 40
dział uchodźców: (22) 556 44 66
fax: (22) 828 69 96, 556 44 50 lub 51
Caritas Polska - Centers for Migrants and Refugees
Białystok 43-200, ul. Warszawska 32
tel/fax: (85) 732 55 53
Lublin 20-950, ul. Prymasa Stefana Wyszyńskiego 2 tel: (81) 743 71 86
Wrocław 50-329, pl. Katedralny 7
tel/fax: (71) 322 17 15
Zgorzelec 59-900, ul. Księdza Domańskiego 12
tel: (75) 771 65 61
Refugee Association in Poland
Tel. (22) 839 09 27, 825 54 26
Human Rights Center at the Jagiellonian University’s Legal Clinic
Kraków 30-033, Al. Zygmunta Krasińskiego 18
tel/fax: (12) 633 37 96
tel./fax (12) 430 19 97
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Legal Clinic · Faculty of Law at Warsaw University
Warszawa 00-071, Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28
Tel.: (22) 552 08 11 tel./fax: (22) 552 43 18
Polish Medical Mission
Ul. Rejtana 2, 30-510 Kraków
tel. (12) 293 40 50, fax (12) 293 40 55
Ul. Ostrobramska 98, 04-118 Warszawa
Tel. (22) 610 02 52
Sophie Baylac - 2009
Translated by Isabelle Caillol-2011