Last year over 15,000 unaccompanied foreign minors arrived in Italy, according to Save the Children. Of the total registered in dedicated reception facilities 2,400 are currently untraceable, while just 3 percent are in foster homes.
In 2017, 18,300 unaccompanied foreign minors were in the reception system in Italy, 43 percent of them in Sicily. Just 3 percent were living with foster families. Over 1,200 were younger than 14.
Last year more than 2,400 were untraceable compared to over 15,770 who arrived in the country.
These are some of the figures contained in the second edition of the 'Atlas of unaccompanied foreign minors' report by the children's rights organisation Save the Children.
Unaccompanied minors are a constant and significant part of total arrivals to Italy, accounting for over 13 percent in 2016 and 2017 and 15 percent in 2018 (2,171 of the 14,330 people who have disembarked this year as of June 11).
The vast majority of unaccompanied underaged migrants and refugees - 83.7 percent - are 16 or 17 years old. Meanwhile, 6.7 percent are younger than 14. A tiny percentage - 0.6 percent - is less than 6.
Girls represent 6.8 percent of the total and come mostly from Nigeria and Eritrea. They are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for exploitation in prostitution and sexual violence.
Nearly half of the minors present come from five countries: Gambia (12 percent), Egypt (9.9 percent), Guinea (9.6 percent), Albania (9.6 percent) and Eritrea (8 percent).
2,400 'invisible' minors
Of the 2,400 minors who became untraceable over the course of 2017, 14.3 percent were from Guinea, 9.7 percent from Ivory Coast and 9.3 percent from Somalia.
In most cases, their plan was to travel to other European countries to reunite with family or friends. These minors are in transit through Italy and try to make themselves invisible after abandoning their reception facilities with the intention of crossing the border into France at Ventimiglia, into Switzerland at Chiasso or into Austria via Brenner on their journey north.
They are often pushed back from these borders even if they show the intention of asking for international protection, Save The Children said.