Specialised facilities

Unaccompanied children in asylum procedures are in need of enhanced protection. Suitable accommodation arrangements for unaccompanied children are part of this protection and entail an obligation by authorities to provide children with special care in facilities separated from adults.

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Key aspects

  • In the majority of EU Member States, unaccompanied children under 18 cannot be placed in non-specialised facilities together with adults.
  • Malta, Luxembourg and Portugal define a lower minimum age for children to be placed in facilities together with adults, namely 16 years.
  • Seven EU Member States (the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia) do not have an explicit legal provision prohibiting the accommodation of unaccompanied children with adults.
  • The majority of EU Member States have no exceptions to their rules, when it comes to accommodating unaccompanied children with adults. However, certain countries allow for exceptions under certain circumstances and conditions. Austria for instance, allows children to be accommodated with adults when there is a lack of available space, whilst in Belgium, children undergoing an age assessment procedure may be accommodated with adults. Finland provides that in case the reception facility for children is located in the same building as the one for adults, there must be a specialised section for the accommodation of children. In Romania, child applicants may be placed together with adults, under exceptional circumstances and provided that they are at least 16 years old.

Legal background

Article 24 (2) of the Reception Conditions Directive explicitly states that only children aged 16 years or over may be placed in accommodation centres for adults, under the condition that such a decision is in their best interests, as defined in Article 23 (2). Article 31 (3) of the Qualification Directive states that unaccompanied children granted a status of international protection must be placed either with adult relatives or with a foster family, in specialised accommodation centres for children or other child-suitable accommodation. The same rules were adopted and included in the new Reception Conditions Directive proposal (COM(2016) 465 final), as well as in the proposal for a Qualification Regulation (COM(2016) 466 final) that are expected to replace current legislation.

Article 20 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) foresees that children who are temporarily or permanently deprived of their family environment are entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the state. More specifically, Article 22 of the CRC stipulates that children seeking refugee status or considered refugees must receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance by the state, while the Committee on the Rights of the Child, invoking Article 20 (3) of the CRC, refers to “placement in suitable institutions for the care of the children” (General Comment No. 6, para. 39-41).