Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 30/11/20


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In 2019, a provision was introduced requiring Federal States to take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of women and vulnerable persons when accommodation asylum seekers in initial reception centres.[1] Even before this provision was introduced, authorities were required to provide specific support to those with special reception needs in accordance with Reception Conditions Directive.[2] 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 specific medical treatment. However, the Asylum Act does not foresee a systematic assessment procedure for vulnerable persons.

Some Federal States have introduced policies that establish systematic screening of all asylum seekers for special reception needs.[3] For example, asylum seekers at the arrival centre in Berlin undergo a short interview with the social services of the Federal State inter alia to identify special reception needs (see also Identification).

In Rhineland-Palatinate, the regional government has adopted a protection concept which also includes methods for the identification of vulnerabilities.[4] This includes the following measures:

  • Accommodation of possible vulnerable persons (i.e. persons who are suspected to have special needs) in separate areas of the reception centres where social services can provide better care and easily identify vulnerabilities;
  • If special reception needs have been established, vulnerable persons shall be accommodated in designated (i.e. separate) “protection areas” with easy access to social services;
  • If necessary, vulnerable persons shall be able to lock their rooms. Single women shall be accommodated in areas to which male residents have no access and where, if possible, social services and supervision are only carried out by female staff members; 
  • Separate rooms for LGBTI persons shall be provided upon request or if considered necessary by the reception centre’s management staff,
  • Persons with physical disabilities shall be accommodated in barrier-free parts of the centres and shall be provided with adequate equipment. If necessary, they shall be accommodated outside of the reception centres in specialised facilities for persons with disabilities.

According to the authorities in Brandenburg, asylum seekers in the Federal State undergo a first screening on arrival in the initial reception centres. Staff is required to report any obvious reception needs and asylum seekers can fill out a questionnaire regarding special reception needs on a voluntary basis. In the next days, trained staff of the psychosocial services at the facilities is supposed to carry out a 20-minute interview with asylum seekers to identify certain criteria that indicate a particular need for protection or assistance.[5] NGOs criticise, however, that this concept is insufficient as only certain groups undergo the second screening in practice and that the special reception needs of physically healthy men with mental health issues are likely to remain undetected.[6]


Reception of unaccompanied children


Unaccompanied children should be placed in the care of a youth welfare office which has to seek “adequate accommodation”.[7] Unaccompanied children 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 (see Legal Representation of Unaccompanied Children).

Latest available figures for unaccompanied minors reflect the situation in 2018: during that year, 5,817 newly arriving unaccompanied minors were placed in the care of a youth welfare office (in comparison to 44,935 in 2016).[8] The total number of unaccompanied children and young adults under the care of youth authorities has also been decreasing significantly in recent years, from 64,045 at the end of 2016 to 31,184 in November 2019.[9] Out of these, 62,8% were older than 18 years but still fell under the competence of youth welfare offices because they were entitled to youth welfare measures. Figures also show that unaccompanied children were sent to all 16 Federal States, with numbers only roughly corresponding to the distribution system of the Königsteiner Schlüssel. Only the city state of Bremen shows a significant deviation from this quota system, with the actual number of children and young adults staying in Bremen in November 2019 amounting to 317% of the Federal State’s quota. Two other Federal States (Hamburg: 140% and Hessen: 137%) were also considerably over their quota, while all East German States except Berlin (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia) did not fully meet the quota allocated to them under the distribution key.

A study of the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, published in December 2019, shows significant disparities between regions as far as reception conditions for unaccompanied children are concerned.[10] Around 1,100 persons working in youth welfare institutions and NGOs had participated in an online survey for this study. The authors of the report observe that reception conditions for unaccompanied children have generally improved in recent years due to a significant decrease in the number of newly arriving asylum seekers. Nevertheless, they also conclude that a good quality of accommodation and of other supportive measures for unaccompanied children is still not ensured in all parts of Germany. According to the authors, the data indicates that especially the Federal States of Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin have to undertake systematic efforts in this regard. Moreover, a major point of concern for them are municipalities where unaccompanied minors will primarily be housed in regular collective accommodation once they turn 18. This happens most frequently in the Federal States of Bavaria, Thuringia, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg. As an encouraging improvement, they point out that temporary housing (youth hostels, hotels, emergency shelters) have continued to decline in all forms of assistance and are now only very rarely used to accommodate young people.[11]


Reception of LGBTI persons


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. In several cities, authorities and/or NGOs have opened specialised accommodation centres for LGBTI persons.[12] Regional guidelines for protection against violence in refugee accommodation centres regularly refer to LGBTI persons as a particularly vulnerable group.[13] Special protection measures should be taken following an individual assessment of the situation. For example, the guidelines for the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia state that vulnerable persons, such as pregnant women, single women, families and LGBTI persons should be given priority when (single) rooms are allocated in accommodation centres. Furthermore, LGBTI persons together with victims of trafficking and persons who have suffered from severe violence, are listed among persons for whom “other accommodation”(i.e. not in collective accommodation centres) can be necessary, again following an individual assessment of the situation.[14]

[1] Section 44(2a) Asylum Act.

[2] Section 21 et seq. Directive 2013/33/EU.

[3]  Protection concepts of different Federal States are available in German at: https://bit.ly/2DpE4f3.   

[4] Konzept zum Gewaltschutz und zur Identifikation von schutzbedürftigen Personen in den Einrichtungen der Erstaufnahme in Rheinland-Pfalz, available in German at: https://bit.ly/2FsmG7V.

[5] Zentrale Ausländerbehörde Brandenburg, ‚Konzeption der Zentralen Ausländerbehörde für die Feststellung und die Berücksichtigung der Belange Schutzbedürftiger i.S.v. Art. 21 ff. RL 2013/33/EU in der Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung (EAE) des Landes Brandenburg‘, December 2019, available in German at: https://bit.ly/31XjQn9.

[6]Information provided by local social workers of Komm Mit e.V., June 2020.

[7]Section 42(1) Social Code, Vol. VIII.

[8] Federal Governmen, Bericht über die Situation unbegleiteter ausländischer Minderjähriger in Deutschland (Report on the situation of unaccompanied foreign minors in Germany), Parliamentary report no. 19/17810, 05 March 2020, available in German at: https://bit.ly/38Q1VQU, 13.

[9] Figures based on unpublished statistics by the Federal Administrative Office (Bundesverwaltungsamt): Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Die Situation unbegleiteter minderjähriger Flüchtlinge in Deutschland, December 2019, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3fePy32, 3http://bit.ly/2tYI6Wz

[10] Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Die Situation unbegleiteter minderjähriger Flüchtlinge in Deutschland, December 2019, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3fePy32,

[11] Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Die Situation unbegleiteter minderjähriger Flüchtlinge in Deutschland, December 2019, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3fePy32, 84.

[12] Queer.de, ‘München schafft Schutzräume für LGBTI-Flüchtlinge’, 19 January 2017, available in German at: http://bit.ly/2jByQkW; Die Welt, ‘Hamburg bietet Wohnungen für schwule Flüchtlinge an’, 4 August 2016, available in German at: http://bit.ly/2DBL6rI.

[13] For protection concepts of different Federal States see Bundesinitiative Schutz von geflüchteten Menschen in Flüchtlingsunterkunften, Schutzkonzepte von Bundesländern, available in German at: https://bit.ly/38MVVYX

[14] Ministry of the Interior for North Rhine-Westphalia, Landesgewaltschutzkonzept für Flüchtlingseinrichtungen des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen, March 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2ul7CCQ.


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation