Refugee children in collective accommodation facilities

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Refugee children in collective accommodation facilities

What is the issue?

After a period spent in a reception centre, refugees move to collective accommodation facilities, which fall under the responsibility of local governments. Children and adults, persons travelling alone and families all live together in these collective accommodation facilities, unusually in close quarters and over longer periods of time (at least until the conclusion of their asylum proceedings).   Section 45(2) and (3) of Book VIII of the German Social Code (Sozialgestzbuch (SGB) VIII) lays down standards to be met by facilities in Germany in which children or adolescents are housed. The intent of these provisions is to ensure that the principle of primary consideration of the best interests of the child, embodied in article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC), is taken into account. However, these provisions do not apply in the case of refugee children living in collective accommodation facilities. The set of legislation known as Asylum Package II addressed one aspect of child protection: in order to work at a facility housing minors, one now has to present an “extended certificate of good conduct”. It should be noted that the accommodation conditions of refugee children vary substantially across federal states and among the local authorities. There are individual federal states and local authorities that have formulated minimum standards; again, these vary greatly with respect to standards for the living spaces in collective accommodation facilities. The standards relevant to children include the amount of space allocated to them and the elements at the facilities like play areas and children’s playrooms. To address the need to protect children and other groups, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and UNICEF jointly launched a national initiative on “Protection against Violence in Refugee Accommodation Facilities” which drew up “Minimum Standards for the Protection of Children, Adolescents and Women in Refugee Accommodation Centres ”. However, these are binding neither for the federal states nor for operators of such facilities.

What does the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child require?

Under article 12 of the UN CRC, children are to be treated as independent legal subjects who have the right to have their views heard and taken into account in the form of participation. From the National CRC Monitoring Mechanism's perspective, this right should play an important role in the conceptual and practical design of collective accommodation facilities.

Under article 31 of the UN CRC, every child has the right to rest and to play and to participate in cultural life and the arts. This also entails the provision of places where children can feel safe and secure.

How is the National CRC Monitoring Mechanism egaging with this issue?

The National CRC Monitoring Mechanism inquired into how refugee children perceive their situation in collective accommodation facilities. In focussing on the views of the children, the study adheres to the UN CRC’s requirements that children be treated as independent legal subjects and be afforded the opportunity to be heard and have their views taken seriously.

The National CRC Monitoring Mechanism surveyed groups of children in two collective accommodation facilities using a variety of child-friendly methods. Both of the collective accommodation facilities are comparatively well appointed. The interviews made it clear that experiences of war and flight have a powerful impact on children’s wellbeing and are closely bound up in children’s needs for safety and security in the collective accommodation facilities

Further Information

Contact

Stephan Gerbig
Researcher and Policy Adviser
Phone: +49 30 25 93 59 - 475
e-mail: gerbig(at)institut-fuer-menschenrechte.de