Categories of people considered to be vulnerable are similar to those listed in Article 21 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive, the only difference being that the IPA definition does not explicitly include persons with serious illness, although the definition is open to categories not listed.
Screening of vulnerability
According to the law, the vulnerability of persons is assessed during the medical examination, which is conducted before the lodging of the asylum application. Their vulnerability can also be identified during the lodging of the application or any time later pending the asylum procedure.
In practice, physical vulnerability is assessed during the medical examination. The identification of vulnerability is therefore largely based on the applicant’s statements during the interview. Since no special procedure for assessing vulnerability is in place, the vulnerability assessment is not as affected by the number of asylum seekers as by other factors like the person’s willingness to share sensitive personal information and the capacity of officials to detect special needs.
Special information sessions following the asylum application are conducted with unaccompanied children and other potential victims of trafficking under a project, implemented by an NGO, currently the Institute for African Studies. They are aimed at informing potential victims of the dangers of trafficking, and at identifying potential victims.
Age assessment of unaccompanied children
If doubts about the age of the unaccompanied minor arise during the examination of the application for international procedure, a medical examination of the applicant can be ordered by the competent authority. In the course of preparation of the opinion, the medical expert can also consult with experts of other fields.
The medical examination for the purpose of age assessment can only be conducted if both the unaccompanied minor and his or her legal representative give written consent. If they do not consent without stating a valid reason the applicant is considered to be an adult. However, the decision to reject his or her application cannot be based solely on that refusal.
If after obtaining the expert opinion, a doubt still exists as to the applicant’s age, he or she is considered a minor.
In 2018, the Ministry of the Interior concluded negotiations with medical institutions that will perform age assessment examinations. Before the agreement, the age assessment procedure was not used in practice. The lack of age assessment procedures meant that adults claiming to be children were sometimes accommodated together with unaccompanied children. Age assessment included an MRI of the applicant’s wrists and collar bones and a dental X-ray. Members of civil society are concerned that conducting such age assessment is unethical and unsafe.
Although no age assessment procedures were conducted in 2018, the Ministry of the Interior initiated the procedure in two cases by giving official notices regarding the procedure to the unaccompanied minors and their representatives. In 2019, the age assessment procedure (MRI and dental X-ray) was conducted in four cases. In two cases the assessment concluded that the individuals were not minors. In 2020, age assessment procedures were not conducted. Due to the large cost of medical examinations and the logistical problems owing to the remote locations where MRI can be conducted, the Ministry of the Interior only conducts age assessments in exceptional cases.
 Article 2, definition 22 IPA.
 Article 13(1) IPA.
 Article 13(2) IPA.
 Article 17(2) IPA.
 Article 17(3) IPA.
 Article 17(4), (5) and (7) IPA.
 Article 17(6) IPA.
 Official statistics provided by the Migration directorate, February 2020.
 Official statistics provided by the Migration directorate, January 2021.