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Unaccompanied Minors in Germany

Date 23 May 2018
Order number FFWP80
type Survey

A considerable part of the refugees that came to Germany in 2015 and 2016 were unaccompanied minors. This led to a number of challenges, both for the children and young refugees and for the responsible authorities, organisations, schools and companies who deal with them. The EMN study examines how different aspects of the life of unaccompanied minors are regulated and how these legal provisions impact on their situation. The study focuses on care, accommodation and assistance, integration into the school system and the labour market, return, disappearance of unaccompanied minors and family reunification. It also provides the most relevant statistics on unaccompanied minors in Germany.

When dealing with unaccompanied minors, the best interest of the child is generally the primary consideration. Therefore, the provision of accommodation, care and assistance does in most parts not depend on their residence status. The residence status does, however, play an important role, for example when it comes to the possibilities for integration into the labour market or for family reunification. From the moment when unaccompanied minors turn 18, their situation is shaped by their residence status to a much greater extent.

Accommodation, Care and Assistance

Unaccompanied minors entering Germany are cared for by the youth welfare system in the same way as other children and juveniles. Upon entry, a process of taking into care with several stages begins:

  • Preliminary taking into care applies right after entry, for a short period of time. In this time, the youth welfare office decides whether the minor will be distributed within Germany according to a fixed quota, or whether s/he remains within the municipality that first took responsibility.
  • Regular taking into care is the next step, during which the situation of the minor is assessed. This process includes an assessment of needs in terms of youth welfare assistance. Also, the appointment of a guardian is initiated.
  • The subsequent assistance measures ensure care and assistance according to the minor’s specific needs. Unaccompanied minors can be housed in youth welfare institutions or in facilities designed specifically to the needs of unaccompanied minors. Other forms of accommodation are even further specialized and catering, for example, especially to traumatised unaccompanied minors.

Integration

All children and juveniles have a right to attend school. However, as a result of the federalized system in Germany, access to school for young refugees is regulated differently in the Länder. The Länder have different models for preparatory and transition classes. The possibility of taking up vocational training can be influenced by the uncertainty regarding residence status. The introduction of a suspension of removal for vocational training created the possibility of a right to remain during vocational training and beyond.

Return

Before forcibly returning an unaccompanied minor, authorities have to make sure that assistance for the minor in the return state is ensured by a family member, a person with custody or a suitable reception facility. This is difficult to do in practice, which is why removal is only impending in rare exceptional cases. Unaccompanied minors are usually granted a suspension of removal until they turn 18. If unaccompanied minors decide to return voluntarily, they can receive financial support for return and reintegration (for example through the REAG/GARP Programme). Here as well, assistance and care in the country of origin has to be ensured.

Disapperance of unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors are frequently reported to be missing. It is presumed that often, the young refugees who go missing want to join family members or friends or are not satisfied with the distribution decision they face. However, it cannot be excluded that unaccompanied minors also fall victim to crimes. There is currently no valid data on this issue.

Family reunification

It is generally in the best interests of children to live together with their parents or other relatives. The youth welfare office can initiate family reunification if relatives of an unaccompanied minor live in Germany or in other EU Member States. This is governed by youth welfare law. Family reunification under residence law (the subsequent immigration of dependent family members from a third country), on the other hand, is governed by residence law. If and how this type of family reunification is possible depends on the residence status of the unaccompanied minor.

Working Paper 80 "Unaccompanied Minors in Germany – Challenges and Measures after the Clarification of Residence Status" was authored as part of the European Migration Network (EMN).

Authors of the study: Julian Tangermann, Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik

© 2018 Copyright by Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. All rights reserved.

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