From file: A woman with a child disembarks the ship Aquarius run by SOS Mediterranee at the port of Palermo | Photo: Igor Petyx / ANSA
From file: A woman with a child disembarks the ship Aquarius run by SOS Mediterranee at the port of Palermo | Photo: Igor Petyx / ANSA

UNICEF and Save the Children said that in the four months that their joint border program has been active, they have provided assistance to more than 130 families and 570 unaccompanied minors in Ventimiglia and Lampedusa.

UNICEF and Save the Children highlighted that they will continue working together to offer humanitarian support to refugee and migrant children, adolescents and families.

The two organizations said that in four months of a joint program to provide assistance at the borders, which ran from December 2020 to March 2021, they have assisted more than 130 families and 570 unaccompanied minors who arrived in Ventimiglia - at the northern border with France - and on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

The organizations have renewed their joint collaboration to last until at least the end of this year 2021. Their programs will support minor migrants arriving through the Central Mediterranean route and the Balkan route, with teams in Lampedusa and Ventimiglia.

People reached by the organizations

"In the first three and a half months of 2021, up until April 16, more than 8,520 migrants and refugees arrived on Italian shores, of whom 1,196 (14%) were foreign unaccompanied minors," the organizations said in a joint statement.

"Lampedusa and Ventimiglia represent the two opposing borders in a system of reception and protection for minors - unaccompanied or with their relatives - in which there are still clear challenges", they added.

The two organizations joined forces in December 2020 "to provide an immediate response to the essential needs of arriving or transiting children and adolescents, their families and single women."

Services on offer include psychological first aid; information on migrants' rights as well as information on available services and opportunities; a timely evaluation of potential vulnerabilities and specific protection problems, including those connected to gender violence; and distribution of kits with useful materials for travel and personal hygiene.

Between December and March in Ventimiglia, 72 families with 116 children were helped and 169 unaccompanied minors were assisted, including six girls. During the same time on the island of Lampedusa, aid was provided to 59 families with 130 children, including 52 girls; 181 women and 404 foreign unaccompanied minors, including at least 33 girls.

Support for Italian authorities

UNICEF and Save the Children "confirm their support for the work done by Italian authorities so that protection and reception is always guaranteed to unaccompanied minors and their families with children for their entire stay in Italy, in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant laws."

The statement made clear that "the initial phases of search and rescue are extremely important and critical to immediately recognize minors and promptly identify the most vulnerable people, including unaccompanied adolescents."

During the search and rescue, the organizations explained that their personnel "ensure that boys, girls, and adolescents, together with other vulnerable people, can access spaces reserved for them, to ensure their security and access meetings with qualified personnel in compliance with their privacy."

The organizations added that "personnel must be trained and prepared, as well as numerically sufficient, with respect to the topics of protection, counseling and intake, to be able to quickly take care of vulnerable cases, including survivors of sexual violence, gender violence and torture."


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