The growing number of teenagers independently seeking asylum in countries across Central Europe are often met with inadequate services, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.
A large-scale UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) project analysing the decision-making process in asylum procedures in eight Central European countries has found that systems designed for adults do not always meet the needs of the young.
“I was really struck by the fact that Germany had more than 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seekers last year under the age of 18,” said Natasa Hrncarova, a UNHCR officer evaluating the work of asylum officers in Slovakia.
“That's more than three times as many asylum-seekers – of all ages – as Slovakia had in 2008,” Ms. Hrncarova said after a recent conference in Vienna where evaluators from Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia reviewed progress at the project’s eight-month, half-way point.
The project underscored the urgent need for simplified legal information in asylum-seekers’ own languages to understand the complexities of European Union asylum law and its implications for their personal situations, as well as the need to significantly raise the standard of interpretation at every step of the process.
Some of the recommendations resulting from the project include providing legal advisers for separated children at initial interviews, training guardians on how to effectively represent asylum-seekers’ interests and using more effective procedures to determine the precise age of applicants who are under 18 years old.