New Italian law protects unaccompanied migrant and refugee children

A new law has been passed in Italy, aiming to guarantee the rights of unaccompanied children and provide a standard procedure.

The “Provision of Protection Measures” passed with an overwhelming majority of support in Italian parliament on March 28, with 375 yes votes and 13 no. It is the result of two years of intense lobbying by organisations focusing on Children’s rights in Italy, and complements the existing Italian Legislative Decree no.25/2008 which explicitly prohibits the detention of unaccompanied minors in accordance with international and European Union law.

IDC Member, Leonardo Cavaliere from Minori Stranieri Non Accompagnati, has provided a detailed analysis of what the new law will mean to those children who leave their homes, without a family member or guardian:

“The new law is particularly focused on: Age assessment and identification of Unaccompanied Minors; establish a structured national reception system, with minimum standards in all reception facilities; attention to the best interests of the child; education and health rights; the right to be heard in administrative and judicial proceedings about unaccompanied minors, even in absence of a guardian, and legal assistance”

To read more about Leonardo’s comments on the new Zampa law click here. Two years ago, Leonardo co – authored this analysis of the situation of child detention in Italy with with Luigi Di Leone, which at the time called for an urgent need for protection of migrant children.

Leonardo Cavaliere from Minori Stranieri Non Accompagnati , a member of the IDC network, has analysed the new law. Any questions contact: minoristranierinonaccompagnati@gmail.com

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The UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, Afshan Khan mentioned:

“While across Europe we have seen fences going up, children detained and pledges unmet, the Italian parliamentarians have shown their compassion and duty to young refugees and migrants,”.

The Zampa law also includes an additional 600 million euro in its budget to communities and services that assist with migrants and refugees.

What do these law changes mean for migrant and refugee children in Italy?

There are a number of positive practices that this law enables, focusing on collaboration and engagement rather than enforcement for these children. Unicef and the European Council Refugees and Exiles have both commended the law changes, indicating that they have the potential to be used in other countries in Europe.

Children can only be held in for 30 days, a reduction from 60 days, with a maximum of 10 days used to be identified and have their age verified.

Several professional will be provided to the children including a cultural mediator, a psychologist, a legal advisor and a temporary “volunteer guardian”. The “volunteer guardians” will be trained by regional officials for children and adolescents. Each minor is guaranteed to have a representative adult figure with a list to be created within three months. The cultural mediator will ensure that the minors will be aware of all the steps required in an asylum process, including the possibility of appeals.

A “Social Folder – Cartella Sociale” will also be established to provide a database to manage the location of unaccompanied minors, allowing help operators to use the folder to identify the specific needs of the child to create long-term solutions for them.

Access to the National Healthcare Service (SSN) will be available before being appointed a guardian and special agreements for apprenticeships and compulsory schooling will be available and subsidized for these children.

The IDC has developed a child – sensitive community and placement model (C-CAP) that outlines key considerations for children on the move. Read about the model here.

 

The Italian Context

A UNICEF report “Child Alert: A Deadly Journey for Children”, outlines the dangers that refugee and migrant children are exposed to en route to Italy, often at the hands of smugglers. Women and children are at risk of abuse, detention and sexual violence among the many risks associated with their migration through the Mediterranean, which has become one of the more popular routes from North Africa.

UNICEF has welcomed the decision by the Italian Parliament as it will “boost support and protection for the record number of foreign unaccompanied and separated children who arrive in Italy”. There is a current trend where the number of children arriving in Europe, especially in the Mediterranean is increasing with 2000 children alone arriving in January and February this year according to UNICEF.

 

Read more:

ECRE, 2017, ‘Italy developing Europe’s most elaborate system for protecting refugee children’, http://www.ecre.org/italy-developing-europes-most-elaborate-system-for-protecting-refugee-children/

UNICEF, 2017, ‘UNICEF hails new Italian law to protect unaccompanied refugee and migrant children as model for Europe’, https://www.unicef.org/media/media_95485.html?utm_source=ECRE+Newsletters&utm_campaign=7ef417da6b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_04_07&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3ec9497afd-7ef417da6b-420551781