Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 21/04/22


Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik Visit Website

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. A systematic screening for vulnerabilities is only in place in three Federal States (for details see Screening of vulnerability). Practices differ between Federal States and also municipalities, as not all Federal States have laws or protection concepts in place that apply to all accommodation centres for asylum seekers.

The AnkER centres and functionally equivalent reception centres usually provide for separate accommodation for women travelling alone and other vulnerable groups in some cases.[3] However, whether or not protection of vulnerable groups is taken seriously in practice often depends on the local management of reception centres.[4] For example, there are reports of women travelling alone being housed next to men with psychological difficulties.[5]

By way of example, in Rhineland-Palatinate, the regional government has adopted a protection concept which also includes methods for the identification of vulnerabilities.[6] 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.

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 2020: during that year, 7,563 newly arriving unaccompanied minors were placed in the care of a youth welfare office (in comparison to 8,647 in 2019 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 21,276 in December 2020.[9] Out of these, 58.5 % were older than 18 years but still fell under the competence of youth welfare offices because they were entitled to youth welfare measures.

Figures in 2019 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.[10] The implementation of the distribution system has been criticised by the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (BumF), who reported that the procedure does not always take into account the best interests of the child and that as a result, unaccompanied minors have gone missing as they travelled to places where they have relatives or a support network.[11]

A study of the BumF, published in March 2021, shows significant disparities between regions as far as reception conditions for unaccompanied children are concerned.[12] Around 1,000 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, Bremen, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saxony need to undertake systematic efforts in this regard. Disparities are especially big as regards support for young adults. 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. Youth welfare offices can however continue to offer care and accommodation up to the age of 21 and up to 27 in individual cases.[13]

The regional authority in Berlin started a pilot project in 2021 to house former unaccompanied minors in reception centres, with continued support by youth welfare organisations. A number of NGOs criticised the project for not providing adequate individual support and assistance.[14] As an encouraging improvement, the BumF study points 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.[15] However the Berlin Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family reported that the reception capacities for unaccompanied children and adolescents have been exhausted since September 2021.[16] Further facilities have therefore been taken into service. The Federal Working Group of Psychosocial Support Centres for Refugees and Victims of Torture, Deutschlandfunk and XENION, a centre providing psychosocial assistance to refugees, also reported limited access to psychotherapy for refugees, unaccompanied children and adolescents.[17]

 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.[18] Regional guidelines for protection against violence in refugee accommodation centres regularly refer to LGBTI persons as a particularly vulnerable group.[19] 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.[20] Some of the AnkER and functionally equivalent centres provide for separate accommodation for LGBTI persons, sometimes upon request of the individuals only.[21]



[1]   Section 44(2a) Asylum Act.

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

[3] See BAMF, Evaluation of AnkER Facilities and Functionally Equivalent Facilities, Research Report 37 of the BAMF Research Centre, 2021, 85, available in English at https://bit.ly/3FgxXnq

[4PRO ASYL e.V., Bayerischer Flüchtlingsrat e.V.,Flüchtlingsrat Brandenburg e.V.,Hessischer FlüchtlingsratFlüchtlingsrat Niedersachsen e.V.,Flüchtlingsrat Sachsen-Anhalt e.V.,Universität Göttingen, ‘Zur Umsetzung Der Istanbul-Konvention In Bezug Auf Geflüchtete Frauen Und Mädchen In Deutschland. Schattenbericht für GREVIO’, July 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3LdLTDg; 10.

[5]  BafF, ‘Identifizierung besonderer Schutzbedürftigkeit am Beispiel von Personen mit Traumafolgestörungen. Status quo in den Bundesländern, Modelle und Herausforderungen’, June 2020, 28. Study available in German at https://bit.ly/3GsdrSm

[6] 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.

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

[8]  FEderal Statistical Office, ‘Kinderschutz: Jugendämter nahmen 2020 rund 45 400 Kinder in Obhut’, 24 June 2021, available at  https://bit.ly/3IkxPp5. For 2016 : 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] Mediendienst Integraton, ‘Unbegleitete minderjährige Flüchtlinge’, available in German at https://bit.ly/3FKaWtC

[10]  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, http://bit.ly/2tYI6Wz

[11]Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, ‘Bericht zum Verteilverfahren unbegleiteter Minderjähriger: Starre Zuständigkeiten, scheiternde Familienzusammenführungen und Mängel bei Rechtsschutz und rechtlicher Vertretung befördern Abgängigkeiten von Jugendlichen’, 23 August 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/37LJEaW.

[12] Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Die Situation unbegleiteter minderjähriger Flüchtlinge in Deutschland, March 2021, 40, available in German at https://bit.ly/3GMm1f5

[13]  See Julian Tangermann and Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, ‘Unaccompanied Minors in Germany – Challenges and Measures after the Clarification of Residence Status’, Study by the German National Contact Point for the European Migration Network (EMN). Working Paper 80 of the Research Centre of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, March 2018, 30-31, available in English at https://bit.ly/3KcEEe6

[14] See Flüchtlingsrat Berlin e. V., ‚ 20.09.2021: Keine „Jugendhilfe Light“ in Sammelunterkünften für junge volljährige Geflüchtete!‘, 22 September 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3L9AOlL.

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

[16] FRA, Migration – Fundamental Rights Concerns – Bulletin 1 January 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3Ng4gbF, p.23.

[17] See also : Deutschlandfunk, ‘Flucht und TraumaWarum in Deutschland Therapieplätze für Migranten fehlen‘, 5 November 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3wqm2CZ; Xenion, ‚Deutschlandfunk: Janina Meyeringh im Interview zum Thema: Warum in Deutschland Therapieplätze für Migrant:innen fehlen‘, 9 November 2021, available in German at: https://bit.ly/3DiBu5H

[18]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.

[19] 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

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

[21] BAMF, ‘Evaluation of AnkER Facilities and Functionally Equivalent Facilities’, Research Report 37 of the BAMF Reseacrh Centre, 2021, available in English at https://bit.ly/3FgxXnq

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