A migrant father and his daughter receive assistance from a volunteer in front of the Trieste train station | Photo: Mauro Donato / ANSA
A migrant father and his daughter receive assistance from a volunteer in front of the Trieste train station | Photo: Mauro Donato / ANSA

A dozen human rights associations have accused public prosecutors in Trieste, northeastern Italy, of not protecting the rights of asylum seekers. They say prosecutors failed to act when underage asylum seekers were housed in facilities for adults for months.

A group of twelve Italian associations published a statement on Tuesday, February 9, calling on local and national authorities to do more to protect the rights of underage asylum seekers in the Trieste area.

The organizations accused public prosecutor's office at the Trieste juvenile court of not acting in cases where the rights of underage migrants and refugees had been violated. In particular, they said, the authorities had failed to "ensure the activation of an age assessment" and the authorities had shown a "differential treatment of people at the border that has no support in current law."

Migrants reach Trieste via Balkan Route

The signatories of the letter expressed "strong concern over the situation of foreign unaccompanied minors who reach Italy through the so-called 'Balkan Route.'" They said they were particularly concerned about "the practices adopted regarding minors tracked down near the Italy-Slovenia border."

The letter was addressed to the Trieste juvenile court, the Italian interior and justice ministries, the Italian National Guarantor for Childhood, and the Italian Association of Juvenile and Family Judges. The twelve organizations that signed the letter sent on February 9 include the Italian Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration, the Italian chapter of Amnesty International, the International Policy Research Center and the Italian Refugee Council.

Minors reportedly forced to stay at adult facility

In the letter, the 12 organizations cited the cases of "three foreign citizens, who declared they were minors, and were placed at a reception center in Gradisca from October 2020 to January 2021, mixed in with adults, after having been identified by law enforcement as legal adults, without the start of any procedure to ascertain their ages." The three people were reportedly transferred to facilities for unaccompanied minors in mid-January 2021.

The organizations also accused the Trieste Juvenile Court of failing to activate age assessment procedures in four other cases, "when called to rule on an appeal by those who declared they were minors but were not considered minors by the administrative authorities."

Underage migrants sent back to Slovenia?

The letter also criticized the Trieste court for allowing readmissions of foreigners to Slovenia. The signatories wrote that "readmission procedures in the directive by the public prosecutor of the Trieste Juvenile Court were ruled illegitimate by a ruling in the Rome Court on January 18, 2021, because they were carried out on the basis of an accord signed between Italy and Slovenia in 1996 that was never ratified in the Italian Parliament, and because they de facto prevent access to the right of asylum and expose people to the concrete risk of indirect refoulement, since readmission to Slovenia is part of a chain-readmission mechanism from Slovenia to Croatia and from there, too often after unspeakable violence, at the doors of the European Union, to Bosnia or Serbia."


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