National legislation transposes literally the recast Reception Conditions Directive regarding the definition of applicants with special needs and provides that “an evaluation by the entity responsible for the welfare of asylum seekers, carried out in conjunction with other authorities as necessary shall be conducted as soon as practicably possible”.
According to the new reception system, upon arrival alleged unaccompanied minors, family groups with children and other manifestly vulnerable persons are processed first and AWAS takes charge of them.
During their stay at the IRC, alleged vulnerable persons will undertake either an age assessment or a vulnerability assessment.1
As mentioned in Identification, AWAS is responsible for implementing government policy regarding persons with special reception needs and is in charge of these assessments. When someone will be deemed to be vulnerable, he or she will not be detained and will immediately be accommodated in open centres or apposite centre for unaccompanied minors.
Beyond the general principle, specific measures provided by law for vulnerable persons are as follows: maintenance of family unity where possible;2 particular, yet undefined, attention to ensure that material reception conditions are such to ensure an adequate standard of living.3
Families and unaccompanied minors are generally accommodated in a dedicated reception centre where they receive appropriate and adequate support. The centre has an official capacity of 30 and is staffed by care workers from AWAS with three members on each shift.
All other vulnerable individuals are treated on a case-by-case basis by AWAS social workers, with the view to providing the required care and support.
Despite all of the above, due to resource and infrastructural limitations, some vulnerable individuals are either never identified or, once identified, are unable to access the care and support they require. The main concern remains that the new system is exclusively tailored for migrants arriving irregularly. For asylum-seekers arriving regularly, the situation is unclear as to whether they will have access to this vulnerability assessment. It is also unclear whether all persons at the IRC will undergo vulnerability screening, or simply those persons who are visibly vulnerable. Since NGO access to the IRC is not permitted, there is concern at the lack of referral possibilities. Also, it is not clear how vulnerability assessment will take place after release from the IRC, at later stages.
With regard to ongoing monitoring, whilst no formal monitoring system exists within detention, vulnerable individuals may be referred to AWAS at any point of their stay. Within open centres, no formal monitoring mechanism is established, yet vulnerable individuals may approach or be referred to open centre management and staff.