A cartoon remembering a dramatic incident on April 18, 2015, when the around 1,000 victims of a shipwreck included a 14-year-old Malian student who had his last report card from school sewn into his pocke | Credit: UNHCR/MAKKOX
A cartoon remembering a dramatic incident on April 18, 2015, when the around 1,000 victims of a shipwreck included a 14-year-old Malian student who had his last report card from school sewn into his pocke | Credit: UNHCR/MAKKOX

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), together with humanitarian organization Intersos, has launched a project to enable 35 unaccompanied refugee children currently living in Niger to move to Italy to continue their studies. The first five minors will arrive in Italy in September, UNHCR said on Thursday, August 12.

A new project promoted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and humanitarian organization Intersos will allow refugee children currently living in Niger to move to Italy in order to continue their studies.

The first five unaccompanied minors will arrive in Italy in September and will be hosted by families in Turin, thanks to the project called "Pagella in tasca -- Canali di studio per minori rifugiati" (report cards in their pocket -- channels of study for refugee minors).

The initiative was officially launched on Thursday (August 12) with the support of the ministries of interior, foreign affairs and labor and the municipal government of the northwestern Italian city of Turin.

Overall, a total of 35 unaccompanied minors currently living in Niger will move to Italy. The pilot project is aimed at experimenting a regular and safe pathway to Italy for young students, UNHCR said in a statement.

'An important first step'

UNHCR said in the statement that the beneficiaries of the project include Adam, 16, who dreams about becoming a doctor. He was born in a refugee camp in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region. When he was 11, he fled to Libya on his own. He has not been in contact with his family since then. For the past two years, he has lived in a refugee camp in Niger, one of the world's poorest countries where he has no opportunities, the UN agency noted. Adam proved he was a hard-working student while at the camp and was selected to take part in the project kicking off in September in Italy.

Cesare Fermi, the Intersos regional director for Europe, said "this project is only a drop in the sea."

"These 35 minors will enter Italy through a regular and safe channel while more than 700 people have died in the central Mediterranean in the first six months of 2021 and over 13,000 people were intercepted and forced to return to Libya while they were trying to flee war, violence and torture. However, this pilot project represents a first, important step. The opening of a new channel of entry will in fact also allow more unaccompanied minors to reach Italy in a safe way," added Fermi.

Creating safe conditions

Chiara Cardoletti, UNHCR representative for Italy, the Holy See and San Marino, said projects like this one pursue "two fundamental objectives: we increase opportunities to access education for refugee boys and girls while increasing safe pathways for asylum seekers."

"It is important to create the conditions to host young refugees in a safe and planned way, offering them the possibility of studying in Italy while saving them from the risks connected to journeys that are as desperate as they are dangerous," she added.

Partners of the project include the city of Turin, the network Cpia Piedmont, the archdiocese of Turin and a number of organizations in the northwestern city. The initiative was organized with the support of the Italian Bishops' Conference, the Foundation Migrantes, Acri and the Foundation Compagnia di San Paolo.

 

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