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According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are more than 43 million refugees worldwide. Most of those currently seeking asylum in Germany are from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran or Kosovo. Every year, several hundred underage refugees enter Germany without their parents.
For a long time, each EU country interpreted the right of asylum individually, but in 1999, the EU countries decided to create a unified asylum system. In Germany, the right to seek asylum from political persecution is a statutory part of the Basic Law: Article 16 stipulates that persons persecuted on political grounds have a legally enforceable right of asylum. Persecution must be politically motivated and instigated by a state or its agencies.
Refugees wishing to achieve asylum status will, in almost all cases, have to make an application for asylum. In Germany, asylum applications are dealt with by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and the interview at BAMF is the most important part of the asylum application process.
What about underage refugees?
Young people under the age of 16 are usually placed into care facilities for young people and are appointed a legal guardian. Many of the Federal States conduct a so-called “clearing process” to establish the reasons for seeking asylum, whether or not there are still relatives and what choices are available in Germany.
The Aliens Act states that young people aged 16 and 17 are “capable of acting”, meaning they are regarded as adults. They often have no legal guardian, are placed in reception centres and required to handle the asylum application process on their own. As this contradicts the stipulations of the UN-Convention on the Rights of the Child, an amendment of the law in 2005 means that 16-and-17-year-olds will at least be placed into care facilities for young people.