Module I: Refugees and Human Rights

Martin Reiter/Oliver von Wrochem


Target groups
Civil servants, trainees and employees of the public service and information disseminators


Themes and goals
Starting with the history of child refugees under the Nazis, the current treatment of unaccompanied minor refugees will be discussed, using case studies from Hamburg as a starting point. In this discussion, we focus especially on the method of assessing the age of minors (a process known in Germany as “fictitious age assessment”). We compare administrative action under the Nazis with the situation today, pointing out what has or has not changed since then while also discussing human rights. As state representatives, public administration employees work to ensure the smooth implementation of legislative guidelines. When employees comply with guidelines that become files in the administrative process, then human rights are violated. Yet, in our daily routines, it is easy to overlook the consequences this can have for those affected – just like it is easy to forget the meaning and relevance of human rights for our own conduct within the context of our work. Using the treatment of refugees as a starting point, this seminar module addresses how administrative action can encroach upon people’s lives and what consequences this can have for those affected.


Participants are encouraged to think about what interests are pursued by an administration and to what extent these interests may conflict with the protection of human rights. Another goal is to enhance participants’ knowledge of human rights and the rights of children and to raise their awareness of the injustices that can result from administrative action within the asylum procedure. We also talk about widespread social prejudices associated with asylum seekers. Finally, we look at case studies to encourage participants to critically reflect on their own actions as well as those of their institutions while raising their awareness of their personal responsibility.