Today, 22-year old Younes does a professional training to become a medical assistant. However, like many other children and young people in the context of migration, he has faced severe hardship due to the uncertainty until he was eventually granted protection, living in inadequate accommodations, limited or no access to social services and fearing for his family’s safety back in Afghanistan.
“Focusing on school and training, not knowing if I could stay or if I would be sent back and fear for my life again, was very hard. I almost went crazy because I could not do anything to speed up the procedure, to get clarity on my future and hence my mental health was very bad. Additionally, the fear for my family worsened the situation,” he explained.
Following a submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Germany by SOS Kinderdorf e.V., Younes, who lives in one of their youth group homes in Berlin, had the chance to directly present his recommendations to an audience of diplomatic and civil society representatives at the UN in Geneva.
The UPR is a periodic review of the human rights records of all United Nations member states by their peers to improve the human rights situation in every country. A state undergoes this review every four to five years and receives recommendations from other states on how to improve human rights implementation.
Younes highlighted the lack of information on the asylum procedure, including child friendly information, and substandard accommodation.
He also emphasized the need to support the reunification of entire families: “The German government should make it easier for unaccompanied children to reunite with their siblings and their parents so that we no longer worry for them because that doesn’t let us sleep at night.”
According to the German federal government’s report on the situation of unaccompanied children in the country, the number of asylum applications of unaccompanied children in Germany have largely decreased from 22,255 in 2015 to 7,277 in 2022.
However, crucial services have been cut and there is a substantial lack of care professionals putting children’s protection at risk. In some cases, unaccompanied children stay in large overcrowded facilities guarded by security staff at night.
“The length of proceedings is due to the lack of capacity of the courts and the administration. Capacities should therefore be increased to speed up proceedings rather than limiting access to legal remedies,” Younes stated. “Provide support services, in particular mental health, and psychosocial support, free of charge to migrant families, regardless of their residence status. These should be available in different languages,” he added.
When children in the context of migration come of age, they often risk not receiving a secure residence status as young adults to continue to build their lives including access to employment and training. Besides continuous discriminatory treatment during their childhoods, these young adults again have to fear for their safety, worried that they will be returned to countries where they have no future. Not having a residence permit means they cannot access schools and training pushes them into destitution and poverty while countries such as Germany have major labour shortages to fill.
“Provide equal support for unaccompanied and separated children as for young nationals who do not grow up with parental support up to the age of 27,” Younes recommended. “Provide more employment and training opportunities for unaccompanied children who come of age - residence status is restricting possibilities.”
If these recommendations are put forward by other states and accepted by the German government, lasting change can be achieved for children and young people like Younes and benefitting their wider communities.