ISMU Press release
Worl Day of Migrants and Refugees 2017
Focus on Unaccompanied Minors
As this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees focuses on vulnerable minors, it is important to look at the significant increase in the number of of unaccompanied minors in Italy .
More than 25,000 unaccompanied minors have reached Italy in 2016. With more than 1 million registered children without Italian citizenship and 815,000 children aged more than 5 enrolled in Italian schools, the presence of foreign-born children in Italy is a consolidated demographic trend. However, particular attention should be paid to the increasing number of minors who live in Italy and have no parents and are therefore particularly vulnerable. In 2016 more than 25,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the Mediterranean and reached Italy – twice as many as in 2015, a critical year for the EU due to the constant flow of asylum-seekers fleeing from Middle-East and Africa.
Unaccompanied minors have accounted for 14.2% of all maritime arrivals in 2016 (181,000 including men, women and children), compared to 8% in 2015 and 7.7% in 2014. In contrast, the number of accompanied minors has decreased from 13,000 (2014) to 2,400 (2016).
In 2016, 92% of migrant children who reached Italy were unaccompanied and came primarily from African countries (Eritrea, Gambia and Nigeria, Egypt). Many do not plan to stay and regard Italy as a transit country to other European countries. Few are those applying for international protection, while many are those who try to escape from the reception facilities across the country. According to the latest data, by 30/11 more than 6,500 minors were missing from official reception facilities. They were primarily Egyptians, Eritreans, Somalis and Afghans who planned to reach friends or family networks in Northern Europe.
The ISMU Foundation is committed to monitoring the phenomenon of unaccompanied minors, considering the great relevance it has acquired over the past few years. This is why the Foundation has included it into the strategic guidelines of the annual work-plan in the form of monitoring and analysis.
While unaccompanied minors have been part of the migration flow in Italy since the 1980s, their number has increased over recent years due to the political unrest in the Arab countries. They represent a specific part of foreign-born minors in Italy and have specific needs due to the overall lack of tutorship. The European Union has taken several initiatives to help several member states address the issue with adequate instruments. This has resulted in an action plan based on three strands: prevention of trafficking, reception and identification of durable solutions.
To date, Italy has put in place a reception system that relies on communities whose practices and objectives are often not in line with children’s needs. Family fostering is underused due to the insufficient number of candidate families, and no programme has been implemented to gradually support children’s independence before they turn 18. It is essential to put in place strategies and inclusion practices where NGOs, local and national authorities collaborate to address the challenges.
At national level, a bill on unaccompanied minors is being approved in the Italian Senate after the approval of the lower house (Oct 2016). The ISMU Foundation welcomes the effort to prioritise children’s psychological and physical safety by turning to issue of minors escaping from reception facilities through the establishing of a digital register. However, the Foundation is concerned that some criticalities remain, namely the broad margin of discretion given to competent authorities and the lack of an appropriate follow-up to those who are no longer dependent on the reception system.
 The data in this press release are by UNHCR and the Italian Ministry of Interior.
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