Adequate support during the interview
The BAMF does not have specialised units dealing with vulnerable groups but employs “special officers” (Sonderbeauftragte) responsible for interviews and decisions on claims by applicants with special needs. In addition to the core modules of the EASO Training Curriculum, these special officers also complete the training module on “Interviewing Vulnerable Persons”. The BAMF guidelines stipulate that the following cases shall be handled in a particularly sensitive manner and, if necessary, by specially-trained decision-makers:
- Unaccompanied children;
- Victims of gender-specific prosecution; and
- Victims of torture and traumatised asylum seekers.
As of June 2019, the following numbers of special officers were working at the BAMF with these areas of responsibilities: Unaccompanied children (396), victims of gender-specific persecution (211) traumatised persons and victims of torture (218), victims of trafficking (151).
If it becomes evident during the interview that an asylum seeker belongs to one of these groups, the officer conducting the interview is obliged to consult a special officer. A note has to be added to the file on how the officers are planning to proceed, particularly if the special officer takes over the case as a result of this consultation. According to recent information provided by the government, there is an obligation in cases of unaccompanied minors for special officers to take over responsibility for the asylum procedures. In other cases of other vulnerable groups, the special officer has to be consulted and there are two options for further procedures: Either the special officer adopts an advisory role or s/he takes over responsibility for the procedure. However, the BAMF does not record the number of cases in which special officers are consulted or in which procedures are delegated to special officers.
Lawyers have reported that the introduction of the special officers has led to some improvement in the handling of “sensitive” cases, but there have also been examples of cases in which indications of trauma and even explicit references to torture did not lead to special officers being consulted. It has also been reported that the involvement of special officers does not automatically result in a better quality of interviews.
It has been noted that the BAMF seems to operate with a very limited understanding of “adequate support” for vulnerable groups. Thus, in a BAMF guideline for the establishment of arrival centres, vulnerable groups are defined as persons who should be interviewed by a special officer, “following a transposition of the relevant provisions of the Asylum Procedures Directive into German law.” It is not clear which transposition is referred to here, since the law does not contain any reference to the concept of “adequate support” at the moment. Furthermore, no other procedural guarantees for vulnerable groups are referred to in this document.
In August 2019, the BAMF provided the following information on “special officers”: Staff members who become „special officers“ have to complete a training module for the specialisation they want to achieve. There are training modules for the the following areas:
- Unaccompanied minors;
- Gender-specific prosecution;
- Traumatised persons and victims of torture;
- security issues in asylum procedures.
Special officers for security issues are responsible for a whole range of issues and should be involved in asylum procedures whenever indications arise for instances of “extremism, terrorism, criminality, human trafficking, war crimes, crimes against humanity and smuggling of human beings”. The special officers for security issues act as contact points between the BAMF and other authorities, but they do not necessarily take part in interviews or take over responsibility of particular asylum procedures.
Exemption from special procedures
Guarantees for unaccompanied children are identical in prioritised and non-prioritised cases. Although there is no provision for this in the law, unaccompanied children were not placed in the airport procedure in 2019. That said, the detention facility at Frankfurt/Main Airport contains dedicated rooms for unaccompanied boys and girls. In any case, the exemption does not apply to children who arrive at the airport together with their parents (86 airport procedures were initiated for children in 2019).
The airport procedure is also applied to other vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, persons with acute medical conditions and victims of rape or other forms of violence. It has also been reported that the BAMF conducts interviews with pregnant women lasting several hours in the airport facilities.
 Federal Government, Reply to parliamentary question by The Left, 18/12001, 20 April 2017, 3.
 BAMF, DA-Asyl (Dienstanweisung Asylverfahren) – Belehrungen, 2010, 139.
 The government notes that the figures cannot be added since some officers may have qualified in more than one area; furthermore, for unknown reasons branch offices did not report the number of their special officers if this was lower than 3; Federal Government, Reply to parliamentary question by The Left, 19/10733, 6 June 2019, 7-8.
 Federal Government, Reply to parliamentary question by The Left, 19/10733, 6 June 2019, 6-8.
 BAMF, response to information request, e-mail from “Zentrale Ansprechstelle” (central contact point), 28 August 2019.
 Nina Hager and Jenny Baron, ‘Verfahrensgarantien für psychisch Kranke oder Traumatisierte’, Asylmagazin 7–8/2017, 17-26, 19.
BAMF, response to information request, e-mail from “Zentrale Ansprechstelle” (central contact point), 28 August 2019.
 BAMF, Entscheiderbrief (newsletter for decision-makers) 4/2020, 1.
 Federal Government, Reply to parliamentary question by The Left, 19/18498, 2 April 2020, 43.
 Federal Government, Reply to parliamentary question by The Left, 19/18498, 2 April 2020, 44.