BAMF - Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge - Unaccompanied minors

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Unaccompanied minors

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

Written asylum applications for unaccompanied minors are to be sent to the following address:

P.O. Box address:
Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge
Referat 716
D-90343 Nürnberg

Postal address (particularly to be used for registered letters):
Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge
Referat 716
Frankenstr. 210
D-90461 Nürnberg

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.

Hervorhebung_Gesetzgebung: Background information

Specially-commissioned case-officers

Specially-commissioned case-officers are specially-trained decision-makers for interview procedures among particularly vulnerable groups of individuals. These include unaccompanied minors, victims of torture, victims of trauma and persons persecuted because of their gender, as well as victims of trafficking in human beings. Specially-commissioned case-officers are at the disposal of their superiors and colleagues as contacts over and above their own tasks in processing applications.

Hervorhebung_Gesetzgebung: The legal basis

  • The Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU of 26 June 2013 is taken into consideration when receiving persons who apply for international protection. This includes for instance Art. 24 of the Reception Conditions Directive on "Unaccompanied minors".

  • The temporary taking into care of children and juveniles by the youth welfare office is governed by sections 42 a-f of Book VIII of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch VIII), whilst taking into care itself falls under section 42 of Book VIII of the Social Code. The tasks incumbent on the guardian are determined by section 27 of Book VIII of the Social Code.

    Accommodation and any goods and services required – including social educational guidance and care, healthcare as well as legal advice – are ensured by the benefits provided for in Book VIII of the Social Code. On attaining the age of majority, benefits can still be provided if and as long as the assistance is necessary on the basis of the individual situation. As a rule, however, the benefits provided for in Book VIII of the Social Code expire on attaining the age of majority.

    Social Code Book VIII

  • In accordance with the Introductory Act to the Civil Code (Einführungsgesetz zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuche – EGBGB), the legal capacity and capacity to contract of a person are governed by the law of the country of which the person is a national (Art. 7 of the Introductory Act to the Civil Code). Guardianship, protective care and curatorship are regulated by Art. 24 of the Introductory Act to the Civil Code in such cases.

  • The particularities of the implementation of the procedures for particularly vulnerable groups of individuals are listed in the Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU (Directive on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection) of 26 June 2013. Qualifications Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 for instance contains a definition of "unaccompanied minors" in Art. 2 (l).

  • The following national provisions apply to asylum proceedings and to the law on residence with regard to asylum-seekers:

    the Asylum Act (Asylgesetz)

    the Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz)

    Sections 12 and 14 of the Asylum Act, amongst other provisions, accordingly apply with regard to unaccompanied minors to the application in the asylum proceedings.

Date 1 October 2016

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