Some 25,846 unaccompanied minors entered Italy in 2016. As of June this year, 17,864 were still present in the country, according to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The difference between the two figures is due both to many of them turning 18 or leaving the facilities they are hosted in.
In order to address the needs of this particularly vulnerable group, a recent agreement was signed between EASO and the Italian Ombudsperson for Children and Adolescents (Autorità Garante per l'Infanzia e l'Adolescenza). Both bodies aim to implement further support measures related to the guardianship system in Italy.
The agreement provides for the selection and training of
guardians for unaccompanied minors.The possibility for private citizens, selected and duly trained, to become volunteer guardians has been introduced. There will also be a nationwide awareness-raising campaign to promote volunteer guardians.
What are volunteer guardians?
Volunteer guardians are the legal representatives of minors who arrive in Italy without an adult accompanying them. They are responsible for acting in their best interests and according to their needs, cultivating their potential and ensuring their health, without taking them into their homes or being responsible for them economically.
After the training course, held by regional watchdog authorities and those of autonomous provinces, would-be volunteer guardians are included on a list established by family courts. The guardians will not receive any sort of reimbursement of expenses or pay and no work permits will be issued for it. The volunteer guardian will not necessarily become the custodial guardian of the minor.
Unaccompanied minors can be entrusted into the care of reception facilities or to guardians other than the volunteer one. The volunteer guardianship ends when the minor turns 18, even if it is hoped that some sort of affectionate relationship will remain between the two. The volunteer guardian will not be held responsible in any way if the unaccompanied minor commits a crime.