From file: Unaccompanied minors arriving in Italy | Photo: ANSA/Polizia Di Stato
From file: Unaccompanied minors arriving in Italy | Photo: ANSA/Polizia Di Stato

The number of unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy has increased significantly. Since the start of the year, nearly 2,000 underage migrants and refugees have arrived in the country without their families – nearly three times as many as in early 2022.

With migrant landings on the rise in Italy, an increasing number of volunteer guardians are necessary to aid unaccompanied minors, the ombudsman for children and adolescents, Carla Garlatti, said on Tuesday (March 14).

Garlatti urged citizens to volunteer as legal guardians for minors. She also said that guardianship "must be promoted more, especially in the regions of arrival."

More underage migrants arriving

Since the beginning of the year, 1,956 unaccompanied foreign minors have reached Italy -- that's almost triple the number of arrivals in the same period last year (737).

Over the past ten years, more than 100,000 underage migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy, aid organization Save the Children reported recently.

According to the ombudsman's most recent report, 3,457 volunteer guardians have been appointed by tribunals for minors, after receiving training offered by regional authorities.

Garlatti stressed that guardians have a "fundamental" role because they are private citizens who decide, on a voluntary basis, to take care of unaccompanied foreign minors, coordinating with social services, hosting centers, regional school authorities, schools, tribunals and juvenile courts.

Although many guardians have been appointed, their number is not sufficient to deal "with a structural phenomenon that has reached a dimension which should not be underestimated", said the ombudsman. She added, however, that the situation is not an emergency.

More efforts from authorities and more volunteers needed

Garlatti said that "a new effort" is necessary from regional authorities and autonomous provinces to increase training courses for guardians and for courts to appoint guardians more quickly.

"I call on citizens, especially those in districts where there are more minors, to apply to become guardians", she said. "We must guarantee that these minors have the same rights that international conventions on infancy and adolescence would recognize for any other child and teen."

In September 2022, €1 million were earmarked to support guardianship -- covering some of the expenses of the guardians appointed by a court.

There's also the possibility for a guardian -- under special circumstances determined by a juvenile court -- to receive an allowance of up to €900, but only at the end of a particularly complex and difficult guardianship.


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