Children and juveniles aged under 18 are regarded in the German asylum procedure as being minors. If they enter a Member State of the EU without being accompanied by an adult who is responsible for them, or if they are left there unaccompanied, they are regarded as unaccompanied minors.
Initial taking into care and initial screening
Unaccompanied minors who entered Germany after 1 November 2015 are first of all taken into care by the youth welfare office that has local responsibility. This provisional taking into care ensures that they are accommodated with a suitable person or in a suitable facility.
Suitable persons can be relatives or foster families, whilst suitable facilities are as a rule "clearing houses" specialising in caring for unaccompanied minors, or youth welfare facilities. They are to ensure that the young people can grow up in a stable situation.
"Initial screening" is also carried out when such minors are provisionally taken into care. As well as the general examination of the state of health, the age of the minors is established. The methods that are used for this range from simply estimating age through physical examinations to X-ray tests of the wrist, jaw or collar bone. The responsible youth welfare office also estimates whether the implementation of the subsequent distribution procedure might endanger the child’s best interests in physical or psychological terms. The possibility of family reunification with relatives living in Germany is also examined in this context. If close social ties exist with other unaccompanied minors, the youth welfare office examines whether it makes sense to accommodate them together.
Distribution and further taking into care
A nationwide distribution procedure exists in order to ensure that the unaccompanied minors are accommodated, supplied, cared for and supported in a manner that is suited to the child’s best interests. The distribution procedure is implemented within 14 days. It is ensured when the distribution is implemented that the children and juveniles are accompanied on the way to the youth welfare office to which they have been assigned and that they are handed over to a specialist from this youth welfare office.
After this distribution, the youth welfare office to which the minors have been assigned is responsible for their further taking into care. Here too, they are either accommodated with a suitable person – relatives or foster families – or in a suitable facility – such as a clearing house. It is then ensured that guardianship is applied for, further medical tests are performed and the calculation of the need for education and clarification of the residence status is carried out.
The appointment of a guardian
A guardian or curator must be appointed for unaccompanied minors. The Family Court decides who ultimately assumes the guardianship. Guardianship as a rule lasts until the person attains majority. The age of majority is orientated in this process towards the law in the minor’s country of origin, and not towards German law. If therefore a minor does not attain the age of majority under this law until after turning 18, as is the case for instance in Togo (majority at 21), the guardianship also does not end until this time.
The subsequent clearing procedure entails the initiation of further steps under the law on youth assistance or on residence. This includes clarifying the residence status. It is decided on this basis whether an asylum application is lodged. If such an application would not be promising, the competent immigration authority may also issue a temporary suspension of deportation (Duldung). If this cannot be considered, the immigration authority will discuss other possibilities under the law on residence. If an asylum application is to be lodged, the Federal Office is responsible for the implementation of the asylum procedure.
The asylum application
The national provisions apply to determining the age of majority within the asylum application. This means that once they have reached the age of 18, asylum-seekers need to lodge their own asylum application as they are regarded as being of age, regardless of the law applying in their country of origin. The guardian can however continue to accompany the asylum application in this case.
Asylum-seekers aged under 18 are regarded as not having legal capacity within the asylum application. This means that unaccompanied minors may not file an asylum application with the Federal Office by themselves. In such cases, the asylum application has to be filed in writing by the youth welfare office or guardian. If it is lodged by a guardian, a "certificate of appointment" (Bestallungsurkunde) needs to be forwarded.
The written application does not have to be filed in any particular form. The following information regarding the minor is nonetheless helpful when it comes to simplifying the further organisation of the procedure:
- surname, forename(s)
- date of birth, or date of birth as ascertained in the age establishment
- nationality, ethnicity and religious affiliation
- place of birth
- language knowledge
- if possible the date of entry into the country.
display as address: Address
The interview and the decision in the asylum procedure
Since unaccompanied minors are regarded as a particularly vulnerable group of individuals enjoying special guarantees for their asylum procedure, their asylum applications are taken care of by specially-commissioned case-officers who have been specially trained to take a sensitive approach. The persecution which they have endured and their displacement experience require particular consideration.
Their procedural guarantees include for instance the determination that the interviews do not take place until after a guardian has been appointed and are held as a matter of principle in the presence of the latter. Additionally, an advisor, for instance a curator, can attend the interviews. The latter may also make statements on the individual case during the interviews or address questions to the unaccompanied minors which are relevant to the asylum application.
Particular emphasis is placed during the interviews on ascertaining whether there are indications of specific child-specific grounds for flight. Child-specific grounds for flight are for instance genital mutilation, forced marriage, domestic violence, trafficking in human beings, as well as forced recruitment as a child soldier.
A decision is taken on the respective asylum application on the basis of the interview. This notice is then served on the guardian or lawyer.