Forever 17: Coming of Age in the German Asylum System

Ulrike Bialas

Age profoundly impacts the experiences and life prospects of asylum seekers in Germany. Legal protections, social support, and better access to housing, education, and healthcare are usually reserved for minors. Regardless of their age—actual or assumed—all young migrants face great difficulties. Those classified as minors must live with the psychological burden of being treated like children, while those classified as adults must live without the practical support and legal protections reserved for minors. The significance of age, however, stands in stark contrast to the ambiguities inherent in its determination. Though Germany’s infamous bureaucracy is designed to issue clear statements about refugees and migrants, the truth is often more complicated, and officials are forced to grapple with the difficult implications of their decisions. Ultimately, policies surrounding asylum seekers fall dramatically short of their humanitarian ideals. Even those policies designed to help the most vulnerable can lead to outcomes that drastically limit the possibilities for migrants in real need of protection and keep them from leading fulfilling lives. Visit the book’s webpage here:

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