Unaccompanied minors who have arrived in Sicily via sea and are hosted in the region's reception centers | Photo: ANSA/ORIETTA SCARDINO
Unaccompanied minors who have arrived in Sicily via sea and are hosted in the region's reception centers | Photo: ANSA/ORIETTA SCARDINO

In the southern Italian city of Palermo, a project teams up 50 young migrants and refugees with local mentors. The goal: To help the youths successfully adjust to life in Italy and transition into adulthood.

The project is called 'A Fianco a Fianco: Cittadini e Giovani Migranti Insieme', which translates to 'Side by Side: Citizens and Young Migrants Together.' It is organized by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Italian branch of Refugees Welcome, an organization that helps refugees find housing, in collaboration with the local government. 

Teenagers need support 

Over 80% of the unaccompanied minors that arrive in Italy are between 16 and 17 years old. Once they turn 18, these youths are treated like adults by the government and get less support from the state. 

However, the teenagers still need support after they officially reach the age of adulthood, a UNICEF representative told ANSA. That's why the Palermo project pairs migrant and refugee youths with mentors. The mentors are supposed to help the young migrants and refugees adjust to adulthood in Italy.

'An experience that enriches everyone involved'

The 50 mentors, a UNICEF representative told ANSA, will be selected after a campaign is conducted to recruit volunteers.

They will then be trained and matched with 50 young adults who arrived as unaccompanied minors in Italy. 

Some of the youths will have the possibility to stay with host families.

"There are many people who want to play a leading role in dealing with the large social challenges of our time, bringing down onto the playing field their skills and life experience. Active citizenship is a resource that needs to be valued," said the head of the Italian branch of Refugees Welcome, Fabiana Musicco. "Through this project we are trying to help bring together needs and potential in an experience that enriches everyone involved."
 

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