The law provides a definition of vulnerability. According to the provision, the following categories of asylum seekers are considered as vulnerable: unaccompanied children; pregnant women; elderly people; single parents, if accompanied by their underage children; individuals with disabilities; and those who have been subjected to severe forms of psychological, physical or sexual abuse.1 The definition of vulnerable categories in Article 21 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive is not yet transposed into national legislation.
There are no specific measures either in law or in practice to address the specific needs of these vulnerable categories except some additional arrangements in practice to ensure medication or nutrition necessary for certain serious chronic illnesses, e.g. diabetes, epilepsy, etc. The law only requires that vulnerability be taken into account when deciding on accommodation, but due to restricted reception capacity and poor material conditions, this is applied rarely, if at all. In 2008, the SAR and UNHCR agreed on standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be followed with respect to treatment of victims of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV).2 However, these were never applied in practice and therefore a process for revision of the SOPs is currently ongoing which also aims to include new categories or vulnerable groups.3 As of 31 December 2016 no progress has been achieved (see section on Special Procedural Guarantees).
Separate facilities for families, single women, unaccompanied children or traumatised asylum seekers do not exist in the reception centres. The 2015 amendments of the LAR provide that unaccompanied children be accommodated in families of relatives, foster families, child shelters of residential type, specialised orphanages or other facilities with special conditions for unaccompanied children.4 The law also envisages accommodation of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in closed facilities, although under exceptional circumstances and in separate premises within the closed centre.5