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Torture victim released after 10 months in immigration custody

During today’s hearing, a district court denied the Border Guard’s motion to extend the period of stay at an immigration facility in the case of the Foundation’s client, once subjected to brutal violence in her country of origin.

At the request of the HFHR, the client was represented pro bono by Mr Michał Jabłoński, an attorney with Dentons Europe Dąbrowski i Wspólnicy sp. k.

Trauma

The woman was placed at a guarded centre for foreigners together with her husband and two small children in October 2016. Since then, she has been diagnosed with adaptation and depressive disorders related to her traumatic experiences in the country of origin and the following detention in Poland. She was particularly affected by her stay at the guarded centre because in her home country she had been subjected to brutal violence and torture during detention at a police station. Her placement at the centre had also a negative impact on the condition of their children.

The above facts have been repeatedly ascertained in psychological and psychiatric assessment reports, which recommended that the family should be released from immigration detention and given safe living conditions adjusted to their mental condition.

Psychological and psychiatric assessments ignored

Although the law prohibits the placement of victims of violence at guarded centres, the Border Guard refused to release the family and on several occasions applied to courts to extend their immigration detention.

“In no proceedings, the courts considering the woman’s case took into account the medical documentation she produced, which clearly recommended her release from the guarded centre. What is more, the courts did not appoint an expert who would assess how detention impacted on the woman’s health, despite being explicitly obliged to do so by the Code of Criminal Procedure”, says Marta Górczyńska, a lawyer of the HFHR who provided legal aid to the foreigner.

In April 2017, the HFHR submitted the client’s application to the European Court of Human Rights, pointing to a number of violations of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that resulted from actions of Polish authorities.

Suicide attempt

In late June, the woman was admitted to a psychiatric ward after attempting suicide. She was diagnosed with the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by the dramatic experiences she had in the country of origin. Even then, the Border Guard once again asked a court for an extension of the woman’s stay in a guarded centre.

In these proceedings, the foreigner was represented pro bono by Mr Michał Jabłoński, an attorney with Dentons Europe Dąbrowski i Wspólnicy sp. k., who accepted the case in a gesture of courtesy to the HFHR. At the hearing, the attorney relied on a medical opinion regarding the woman’s health, which clearly indicated that any further stay in detention would directly endanger her life and health. A district court accepted this reasoning and denied the Border Guard’s motion. In the consequence of this ruling, the family was released from the guarded centre after 10 months spent in immigration custody.

Torture victims left on their own

“This case is yet another confirmation that there is no effective system for identifying victims of torture and other forms of serious violence among the foreigners placed at guarded centres. This step is crucial for the assessment of possibility to extend a foreigner’s immigration detention as the current law says even a presumption that a person is a victim of violence should result in this person’s release. However, the practice shows that neither the Border Guard nor courts take the initiative to perform such assessment. This leads to situations where victims of torture and other forms of violence are unfairly detained, often for periods of long months”, Ms Górczyńska adds.

The foreigner’s case is now pending before the European Court of Human Rights.


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