Unaccompanied minors and vulnerable applicants

EASO Asylum Report 2020
Section 6. Unaccompanied minors and vulnerable
This section provides qualitative and quantitative information on developments and challenges
reported on the situation of vulnerable applicants in the asylum system, covering identification of
vulnerable applicants, training initiatives, material reception conditions, case law and data on the
number and profiles of una ccompanied minors in 2019. Cha nges in the methodology for age
assessment and procedures to appoint legal guardians are presented. The section also describes
developments and challenges in the provision of information and procedures at first instance
covering all vulnerable applicants. Other sections of this report also cover developments not
addressed in detail in this section, such as detention (Section 7.8), content of p rotection (Section
7.12) and return of former applicants (Section 7.13).
T               M “
unaccompanied by the adult responsible for them by law or by the practice of the Member State
concerned, and for as long as they are not effectively taken into the care of such a person. It includes
              M “xxxii
Special provisions are in place in EU legislation for vulnerable groups in the asylum system, specified
in the recast Asylum Procedures Directive and in the recast Reception Conditions Directive. The recast
Asylum Procedures Directive, Article 2(d) defines applicants in need of special procedural guarantees
as those with a limited ability to benefit from rights and fulfil the obligations granted in the directive
due to individual circumstances. Recital 29 gives examp les of these circumstances although it is not
an exhaustive list: age; gender; sexual orientation; gender identity; disability; serious illness; mental
disorders; consequences of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological; and physical or
sexual violence.
The recast Asylum Procedures Directive, Article 24 outlines the elements of special procedural
guarantees for applicants in general, and Article 25 specifies the guarantees for unaccompanied
minors. Member States are required to assess within a reasonable time whether there is a need to
implement these guarantees for individual applicants and provide adequate support.
The recast Reception Conditions Directive defines applicants with special reception needs. It also lists
examples, which are non-exhaustive, but the examples cover a slightly different scope. It explicitly
mentions unaccompanied minors, single parents with minor children, victims of human trafficking and
victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), but it does not refer to gende r, sexual orientation or
gender identity. Detailed provisions are listed in the recast Reception Conditions Directive, Chapter IV
and require Member States to take into account the specific situation of a vulnerable applicant, assess
within a reasonable period whether an applicant is vulnerable and ensure that the needs are
addressed. Chapter IV also li sts specific provisions for minors, unaccompanied minors and victims of
torture and violence. Article 11 lists the conditions for det aining vulnerable persons and applicants
with special reception needs.
xxxii See EMN Glossary unaccompanied minor, as derived from the recast Qualification Directive, Article 2(l).
Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union
As in previous years, many initiatives were launched in 2019 to improve the situation of vulnerable
applicants. Nevertheless, it is an aspect of the asylum process which raises many concerns and new
challenges arose over the year, pointing to possible detrimental effects of newly-adopted asylum laws
and policies.
6.1 Identification of vulnerable applicants
Developments in legislation, policy and practice
Belgium stood out in 2019 for undertaking great efforts to improve its identification
system. M any initiatives were piloted in the new temporary Arrival Centre set up in
December 2018 in Brussels to identify more efficient ly all applicants with special
reception needs or in need of special procedural guarantees. There are both medical
and social screenings in the arrival path, followed by a more in-depth examination for
all applicants. The Federal Agency for t he Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil) defines the material
reception conditions and recommends special procedural needs to the Commissioner General f or
Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS) based on the information gathered through appointments with
the applicants. Unaccompanied minors are prioritised and separated from adult applicants within the
arrival path (in addition to the Arrival Centre, there are also 4 specific centres dedicated to the
assessment of unaccompanied minors needs). Fedasil has also been developing and testing a new
early screening tool to support social workers at the Arrival Centre.
Many initiatives were ongoing in Cyprus as well. A screening system was developed in the First
Reception Centre Pournara, where UNHCR and EASO supported the Asylum Service with the
process, but the tool is still to be implemented in practice.197 UNHCR and the Cyprus Refugee Council,
a local NGO, stepped in and carried out vulnerability screening as there was no systematic mechanism
in place. The Social Welfare Services developed and launched a standard referral form to improve the
identification of potential victims of human trafficking, which is now also used in this reception centre.
The increasing number of arrivals in Malta triggered a review of identification processes. For example,
funded through an AMIF project, a psychosocial team was set up to identify vu lnerabilities related to
mental health. These applicants are then referred to the care team.
In France, a national working group and three thematic working groups were set up to elaborate an
action plan to draft a circular on det ecting and addressing vulnerabilities of applicants and
beneficiaries of international protection throughout the entire asylum and integration p rocess. The
aim is to detect vulnerabilities as soon as possible and to take them into account and adapt responses
during the whole instruction process. Four main issues were targeted: physical and mental health;
women victim of violenc e and hu man trafficking; lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and intersex
(LGBTI) asylum seekers; and re fugees and unaccompanied minors. This plan will be put into practice
in 2020/2021. A new automated data processing system for unaccompanied children (see Section 5.3)
was introduced to support the evaluation of the situation of unaccompanied minors, and a new order
requires evaluators to be attentive to any signs of trafficking and exploitation, and ensure adequate
follow-up (FR LEG 03). Civil society organisations, however, found that the measures were applied
    tments, where some departmental authorities focused more on
controlling applicants       198
Similarly, legal changes entered into force in Germany to enhance the identification a nd registration
of children (DE LEG 01). Fingerprinting will become obligatory after April 2021 for all children older
than 6 years. The local Youth Welfare Office responsible for the initial screening of unaccompanied
minors is now obliged to ensure that the minor is identified and the data are transmitted to the Central
Register of Foreigners (AZR, Ausländerzentralregister).

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