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Caring for the Vulnerable in Asylum

Caring for the Vulnerable in Asylum
© UNHCR/ B. Szandelszky

Asylum-seekers with special needs

As vulnerable as asylum-seekers are, there are people within this group who face even greater risks, challenges, and problems. These people include children who are orphaned or separated from their parents, traumatized individuals suffering from psychological problems, mothers and fathers raising children alone, victims of human trafficking, and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, just to name a few.

Typically, these people cannot lobby on their own behalf, and national-asylum systems are rarely able to identify them and ensure that they receive the special assistance they need. And those with special needs who are not identified and helped often face an uphill battle with asylum claims because their disabilities and challenges impede their ability to  provide required information during the refugee status process.

To help these people, UNHCR Central Europe launched the “Response to Vulnerability in Asylum” (RVA) project in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and the UK. This project worked to improve the system of identifying vulnerable asylum-seekers, and provides them with the legal, social, psychological, and medical help they so badly need. Co-funded by the European Union, the project: 

  • mapped current practices, policies, and legislation in countries where this problem is evident; 
  • identified good practices, knowledge gained from trial and error, gaps in services, and areas where future projects may be required;
  • collected and analysed the views and feedback of asylum-seekers themselves;
  • provided capacity-building and training for government stakeholders so that their national asylum systems can better respond to the special needs of the vulnerable; 
  • developed standard operating procedures for the implementation of policies and legislation in the area; and
  • created a network of civil-society stakeholders for the exchange of information and experience, and to coordinate activities.

This project built on the achievements of the previous “Asylum Systems Quality Assurance and Evaluation Mechanism” and “Further Developing Asylum Quality” projects, which have improved asylum procedures and established quality-assurance, audit, and review mechanisms in participating countries in the region.

The knowledge gained from these projects are being shared with the European Asylum Support Office, and all non-participating EU countries. Ultimately, it is hoped the lessons learned become part of the EU-wide effort to harmonize the national asylum systems of each member state.

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