What does the EU Reception Directive state?
According to the Directive, special needs may concern accommodation, material supplies, and medical care. People in need of special protection include (unaccompanied) minors, people with disabilities, people with serious physical or mental illnesses, pregnant women, single parents, elderly people and victims of human trafficking, torture or psychological, physical or sexual violence. LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) refugees can also be assumed to need special protection under the Directive.
How has the Directive been implemented in Berlin?
The Berlin Network for Particularly Vulnerable Refugees (BNS) was founded in 2008 to fulfil EU Reception Directive requirements. BNS coordination is managed by the ÜBERLEBEN Centre, which also treats victims of torture. The network consists of seven Berlin-based non-governmental organisations. In cooperation with the then Senate Department for Health and Social Affairs (SenGesSoz), the network developed a three-stage procedure for identifying and caring for particularly vulnerable refugees in Berlin. The BNS drafted an extensive 93-page set of guidelines, which the Berlin Senate later published, outlining the best practices for identifying people in need of special protection. Their cases are then processed more quickly at the immigration office with specifically trained auditors on hand to hear their case.
What’s the outcome?
Employees at the “immigration office” are given relevant background information on each vulnerable group, which can help them to process better any information they acquire during an interview. In addition, there are specific indicators for almost every group that can help to identify a refugee as being in need of special protection. For example, staff are advised to “proactively and convincingly convey to the asylum seekers that they will not face any danger or repression from the state if they disclose their gender identity and/or sexual orientation or that of their partner”. This procedure is unique in Germany. As an additional measure, the city has set up a specialised unit to support refugees with mental health issues and prevent mental illnesses from becoming chronic.