Chechen Asylum Seekers Begin Hunger Strike in Poland
Media sources in Poland have reported that a group of Chechen asylum seekers who are being kept in the Closed Center for Foreigners in Poland have started a hunger strike to protest their living conditions.
According to the information, about a month ago an asylum seeker in the Przemyśl Closed Center for Foreigners started a hunger strike to protest living conditions in the facility. The man is down to 38kg (84lbs) now, but will continue the hunger strike. This information was dispersed on the grapevine among asylum seekers. This past Saturday, October 13, a group of Chechen asylum seekers being kept in the Closed Center for Foreigners (Strzeżonym Ośrodku dla Cudzoziemców) in the city of Bialystok in Poland refused to eat their dinner and declared a hunger strike to join in the protest of living conditions. Soon after, the hunger strike spread to other closed centers in Poland, one by one. So far, about 30 Chechen asylum seekers, 30 Dagestani, Georgian and other asylum seekers are participating in the hunger strike at four (Bialystok, Lesznowoli, Przemyśl and Białej Podlaskiej) of these closed centers for foreigners.
The protesting asylum seekers claim that the Polish authorities treat them like second class citizens. For them, these closed centers resemble prisons, including high walls, bars, 24/7 monitoring and yards. Their children have limited access to education. They have no access to the internet or telephone service and are just waiting for their expulsion from Poland.
In fact, Polish authorities use these closed centers as prisons for detainees who are held after their arrests for illegally crossing Polish borders or those who are sent back to Poland due to the Dublin-II Regulation. They are kept in these facilities while awaiting asylum decisions by the Polish authorities.
After the learning of the hunger strikes, a group calling themselves a “Refugee Support Group” sent press releases on the incident. “Persons who are in closed centers feel like criminals. The protests are caused by many factors; generally speaking they are caused by the lack of respect for the rights of people embedded in these centers. They are demanding the right to information in a language they understand, the right to contact with the outside world, the right to proper medical care, education for children of inmates and other minors, respect for children’s rights, improved social conditions prevailing in the centers, curbing fraud and abuse of violence, and finally, a stop to the criminalization of prisoners. These people are really desperate. For too long, their problems have been ignored. They have not found any other option rather than the hunger strike, which is the only way for their voices to be heard,” said a representative of the group who wishes to remain anonymous.
Polish authorities have also confirmed the hunger strikes. “We have been notified that they have complained about the conditions inside these centers as well as the provided services, such as medical care and counseling. We have urged these people to stop the hunger strikes,” said Małgorzata Woźniak, spokeswomen for the Polish Interior Ministry.
“They are not eating anything, but there is a doctor monitoring their situation. If it becomes necessary, we will transfer them to the hospital. We have seen these kinds of protests in the past. I guess after a while, they will end,” said Anna Wójcik, spokeswoman for the Podlaski Region Borders Guards in the city of Bialystok.
*Text was written by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco