Special needs should be taken into account as part of the admission procedure to the initial reception centres, and social workers or medical personnel in the reception centres can assist with applications for specific medical treatment. However, there is no systematic assessment procedure for vulnerable persons.
There is no legal obligation to provide separated facilities or separate wings for families, single women or other vulnerable groups. In practice, several reception facilities have tried to introduce a policy to house families and single women in separate wings. However, it has often not been possible to consistently carry out this policy, especially in cases of overcrowded facilities.
Unaccompanied children should be taken into care of a youth welfare office and the youth welfare office has to seek “adequate accommodation”.1 This is often provided in specialised “clearing houses” or other youth welfare facilities, but there are also examples of special accommodation centres, which have only been established for unaccompanied children and which have been strongly criticised for being inadequate to meet the special needs of this group.2 Furthermore, because of some inconsistencies in legislation, the procedure for taking unaccompanied children into care is not observed thoroughly. According to estimates of the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (Bundesfachverband Unbegleitete Minderjährige Flüchtlinge), as many as 25% of all unaccompanied children are not taken into care and do not regularly receive benefits and services from the youth welfare office.3 Unaccompanied children who are not taken into care are thus housed in the “regular” reception or accommodation centres and they receive the same benefits as adults.
From November 2015 onwards, unaccompanied minors do not generally stay in the place in which they have arrived, but they can be sent to other places throughout Germany as part of a distribution system established in November 2015 (see section on Unaccompanied Children). At the time, the NGO Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors had expressed its concern that many municipalities might not be sufficiently prepared for an adequate reception of unaccompanied minors.4
In July 2016, the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors published an evaluation of the provisional care system which had been established in November 2015.5 The evaluation is based on information submitted by about 1,400 persons working in youth welfare institutions and NGOs via an internet-based survey. Major problems identified in the study concerning the provisional care system include the following:6
Accommodation of unaccompanied minors in temporary facilities which are not suited to their needs;
Duration of procedures to clarify guardianship for refugee minors in excess of authorities' legal obligations;
Inadequate medical care during provisional care period;
Staff in provisional care system is insufficiently trained and equipped to decide whether distribution is in the best interest of the child;
Insufficient access to education system during the provisional care period which can last for more than six months.
The situation of LGBTI persons in reception centres and other collective accommodation centres has been frequently discussed, after many reports had emerged about LGBTI persons being harassed and attacked by other asylum seekers. NGO opened an accommodation centre in Berlin for victims of such harassment.7
- 1. Section 42(1) first sentence Eighth Book of the Social Code.
- 2. Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, “Bayerns Ignoranz bei der Unterbringung unbegleiteter minderjähriger Flüchtlinge provoziert geradezu weitere Eskalationen” (“Bavaria’s ignorance in relation to accommodation of underaged and unaccompanied refugees lead to increased escalations“), Press release, 6 March 2013.
- 3. Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Supplementary Report on the third and fourth periodic reports of Germany to the United Nations pursuant to Art. 44 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, 2013, 27.
- 4. Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, ‘Bundestag beschließt Quotenregelung: Unbegleitete minderjährige Flüchtlinge werden auf unvorbereitete Kommunen verteilt’ (Parliament adopts quota systen: Unaccompanied refugee minors will be distributed to unprepared municipalities), Press release, 15 October 2015.
- 5. Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Die Aufnahmesituation unbegleiteter minderjähriger Flüchtlinge in Deutschland. Erste Evaluation zur Umsetzung des Umverteilungsgesetzes. (The reception situation for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors in Germany. First evaluation of the Redistribution Law). July 2016.
- 6. Ibid, 29-30.
- 7. ILGA Europe, Seeking refuge without harassment, detention or return to a “safe country”, ILGA Europe Briefing on LGBTI Refugees and Asylum, February 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2mEpmqk, 2.