Accompanied refugee minors’ are children and adolescents who are accompanied by persons entitled to take care of them and have custody of them – generally the parents. On arrival in Germany, families are initially housed at central reception facilities. From here, they are distributed on a quota-basis across the municipalities – a practice which has sometimes been established as a requirement for accessing day- care-centres, regular schools and municipal integration services, often contrary to the applicable legal situation.
Groups of people are increasingly being excluded from this distribution process, and obliged to spend extended periods at reception centres. Persons from safe countries of origin (Section 29a AsylG) are obliged to stay at the reception centres until they leave Germany if their asylum application has been rejected on the basis of being clearly unfounded. Others may be obliged to do this for up to 24 months (Section 47 AsylG). Until 2015, housing at these reception centres was only permitted for a maximum of three months. At the time of the Supplementary Report’s compilation, further broadening of the rule regarding mandatory housing at reception centres is being discussed.
This legal development has a negative impact on children and adolescents, as it breaches their rights established in Articles 27, 28, 29 and 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Access to education is restricted, and sometimes even totally blocked, and admission into a training course or internship is sometimes also prohibited under Section 61 AsylG. In some states, children start attending school immediately, while in others, state laws or administrative practices prevent access.
Housing at reception centres also significantly compromises the children’s safety and development. The centres often have no child-friendly sanitary facilities, and the hygiene situation is alarming. Some room doors cannot be locked, and there is a lack of privacy. Leaving the municipality or district without the relevant authority’s permission may be punishable. Parents often cannot cook for their children due to the ‘benefits-in-kind principle’ (Sachleistungsvorrang). Many children and adolescents are also forced to witness or experience violence. There is a lack of mandatory, standardised processes to identify the need for protection, clear processes in the event of threats to the best interests of the child, and needs-based staffing ratios and training. The ‘Anker-Einrichtungen’ processing centres introduced in 2018 were criticised by the UN Committee Against Torture in May 2019.
Health care is based on the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act, and is only guaranteed for acute diseases nationwide. Any extra care, e.g. for chronic illnesses, is at the discretion of the local authorities.
- The National Coalition Germany recommends that the UN Committee call on the German federal government to
- 132. Establish, in federal law, mandatory standards and framework conditions that ensure the wellbeing and protection of children and adolescents at reception centres, including effective sanctioning, complaint and control mechanisms;
- 133. Promptly distribute asylum-seekers across the municipalities, and limit the obligation to stay at a reception centre to a maximum of one month;
- 134. House refugees locally in small units or homes as quickly as possible;
- 135. Ensure direct access to statutory care for accompanied minors, e.g. unrestricted health care and complete social and cultural participation, by eliminating geographic restrictions and residence conditions;
- 136. Advise the state governments to introduce direct compulsory schooling for refugee minors in all states;
- 137. Open up access to educational support, and grant permits for internships and training courses regardless of status, duration of prior periods of stay in Germany, type of housing, or country of origin.