The treatment of unaccompanied immigrant and refugee minors in Germany

Immigration or the movement of populations is defined as a change in place and location of residency.

People tend to become immigrants or refugees on account of poverty, illness, politics, war, lack of security, natural phenomena and disasters. Additional reasons might be the desire for better education or healthcare, to improve one’s financial situation or acquire greater social and political freedom.

It is not uncommon for children to become separated from their parents during the course of the emigrant journey and to find themselves without protection in one European country or another. In addition, there are under-age immigrants who set off on their own, and there are various reasons for this.

In this article, we will take a look at the rights of unaccompanied immigrant and refugee minors in Germany and see how they are treated there.

As soon as a minor enters Germany, the Youth Welfare Agency “Jugendamt” takes charge.

If the child has relatives in Germany, he or she has the right to ask to stay with them; otherwise, he or she will be placed in a shelter for unaccompanied minors. There then follows a process of placement with a foster family.

All this takes about two weeks. After that, the minor is transferred to one of the 16 federal states of Germany, where the local Immigration Office (Ausländerbehörde) gives him or her the necessary residency documents.

The process for acquiring residency documents for a minor differs greatly from that for adults.

Minors, especially those that are unaccompanied, are unable to make decisions on legal matters regarding their case, so they are assigned a guardian by the Youth Welfare Agency “Jugendamt”, who will be responsible for their protection.

All minors entering Germany have the right to go to school or to a vocational training college called “Ausbildung”.

Full-time education till the age of 18 is compulsory in all German states.

What is more, all children enjoy the same political and legal rights without discrimination.

It has to be emphasised that all unaccompanied minors have the right to be reunified with their families wherever possible, as is the case with all minors in the country.

In dealing with unaccompanied minors, Germany behaves very responsibly and makes every effort to safeguard their rights.

This article was originally published in the fifth issue of ‘Migratory Birds’. The fifth issue of ‘Migratory Birds’ was produced by the Network for Children’s Rights, and supported by UNICEF with funding by the European Commission — Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. This edition was further funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung– Office in Greece, funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation, and published in Greece’s Efsyn newspaper on November 25, 2017.

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Please contact the teenage teams of the newspaper “Migratory Birds” and the web radio “Dandelion” of the Network for Children’s Rights by sending an email to or by calling 00 30 210 88 46 590.