Any refugee seeking protection is in a vulnerable position, but the ability of certain individuals to present an application for international protection is further impaired due to particular personal characteristics or especially traumatic experiences. Such 'vulnerable groups' include, but are not limited to, children especially unaccompanied children, disabled people, elderly or persons suffering from serious illnesses, pregnant women, single parents with children, persons suffering from mental health problems, victims of human trafficking and victims of torture, rape or any other form of psychological, physical or sexual violence.
Although some legal instruments under the Common European Asylum System refer to vulnerable groups, the provisions in these instruments vary greatly.
Chapter IV of the Reception Directive places obligations on Member States concerning vulnerable groups. It requires national authorities to take into consideration 'the specific situation of vulnerable persons' as regards the provision of material reception conditions and health care.
The Dublin Regulation refers to vulnerable groups, but only in the very limited context of its humanitarian clause. This gives insufficient consideration to the needs of vulnerable people who lack family connections in Europe.
The Qualification Directive only mentions that Member States should take into account the specific situation of vulnerable persons such as minors, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence.
The Asylum Procedures Directive does not explicitly mention vulnerable groups, but obliges Member States to take the "vulnerability" of the asylum seeker into account.
ECRE is especially concerned with the practical application of these provisions, as significant problems occur in applying them to vulnerable groups.