Everyday, 28 Children Disappear from the Italian Reception System


number of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children arriving in
Europe this year has doubled
But this is taking place in the context of a reception system which
is failing to provide them with the necessary support. Oxfam’s new
report released today, “Great Expectations Left to Drift”,
exposes this situation.

is enough to remember that every
day, 28 unaccompanied children simply “disappear” due to an
inadequate and malfunctioning system

of them find themselves confined
for an indefinite period in centres they cannot leave
forced to live in inadequate and unsafe housing, without information
about their rights. Others have family in European countries and do
not want to stay in Italy. The consequences are inevitable. Many
have escaped from the reception and live on the street, exposed to
still greater risks
The situation exposes the inadequacy of the European and Italian
approach to the fact of migration.

gateway to Europe: 15% of arrivals are unaccompanied minors

the closure of the Western Balkan route and the agreement between the
EU and Turkey, Italy once again became the principle point of access
for migrants headed for Europe. Many
of them are minors arriving on their own
According to the latest data published by the UNHCR, the number of
unaccompanied children arriving in Europe significantly increased in
2016, in the end representing 15%
of all arrivals.

By the
end of July, the UNHCR reports that 13,705 unaccompanied minors were
landed in Italy: a larger number than for arrivals in 2015 (12,360

the work carried out by civil society and many local councils and
regional government, the Italian
reception system seems to remain inadequate for the protection of
unaccompanied children and their rights.

The Hotspot centres, for example, set up by the EU and Italian
authorities for the registration of new arrivals and to speed up the
deportation and rejection processes, are currently in a situation of
chronic overcrowding and are failing to provide adequate services,
even in terms of hygiene and sanitation.

though the maximum time spent in a Hotspot ought
last 48-72 hours,
many end up remaining stuck there
for weeks
frequently without being able to change their clothes (not even their
underwear) and without being able to call their families back home or
relative in Europe.

joint action required from Italy and Europe

calls on the Italian authorities and European partners to immediately
intervene so as to guarantee unaccompanied minors adequate and safe

and the necessary support to be able to live in a dignified manner.

dramatic situation to which unaccompanied minors in Italy are
subjected, clearly shows the inability of European governments and of
Italian authorities to protect the children who are arriving in
search of security and dignity”, explains the Director of Campaigns
for Oxfam Italia, Elisa Bacciotti.
“This demonstrates yet again the failure of Europe’s current
approach, where the management of a common border is entrusted to
only a few countries. Europe must remain united in accepting people
who flee conflicts, persecution and situations which have now become

The accounts of young people who have crossed the Mediterranean
on their own

majority of children who cross the sea on their own and arrive on
Italian coasts come from Egypt,
Gambia, Nigeria and Somalia
are fleeing serious situations of conflict, insecurity and poverty

left Gambia with my brother a year ago”, ‘O’,
16, tells us, originally from Gambia.

“I wasn’t safe in my country, the police were threatening me. Some
of our neighbours had been killed during a gunfight […] We left on
a rubber dinghy with 118 people. After a few hours there was
something like a burst, a fire: in the confusion, my brother slid
into the water. I didn’t see him again. He had given me his

situation in the centres of first and second reception, to which
minors are transferred after being registered, is often not much
better than in the Hotspots
The young migrants are frequently detained without being able to
leave. Oxfam has
gathered witness accounts of threats and violence

ignored by the centres’ managers.

the centre in Pozzallo there’s a group of adults from Somalia who
treat us Eritreans very badly, beating and insulting us”, ‘D’,
17, tells us, originally from Eritrea
“Despite repeatedly telling the police and the centre’s workers
about this, the Somalis kept on, and no one did anything.”

40% of unaccompanied minors are effectively stuck in Sicily,
frequently in small port towns. This is the result of a national
regulation which puts strong barriers on the possibility for other
regions in Italy to share the responsibility of hosting these
children and young people, precluding the possibility of their being
housed in more appropriate and dignified structures and locations”,
Bacciotti continues. “This problem has to be overcome. Italy has to
construct a national system able to guarantee unaccompanied children
higher standards of reception, and European governments needs to
collaborate with our country in meeting this objectives. To this end,
priority is that all member states of the EU eliminate and prevent
every form of detention of minors
There are no circumstances under which the detention of minors is
acceptable but is instead always a violation of the rights of the

and its partner organisations in Italy, such as AccoglieRete

regularly meet young people who tell of not having been informed of
the possibility to
asylum right to a legal guardian, i.e. someone who acts in their best
interests and safeguards their rights. The
assigning of a legal guardian, however, often takes months,
compromising their possibility of accessing a normal future
and having a serious slowing effect on the process of regularising
and integration of unaccompanied minors.

More than 5,000 minors have “disappeared” in the first 6
months of this year alone

the first 6 months of 2016, 5,222 unaccompanied minors have been
declared “missing”, having run away from the reception centres in
order to continue their journeys and reach other European countries.
young people thus become invisible, dropping off the legal radar, and
consequentially becoming still more vulnerable to acts of violence
and exploitation.

the situation of children is particularly critical, that of those who
turn 18 is no better. Many are simply imprisoned
in centres

in which they stay, thus also ending up in the middle of the street.

In ten days’ time the governments of the whole world will meet at the
UN in New York in order to define their concrete objectives for those
forced to flee: this is the moment in which to ask for a change in
the destiny of refugees.

ask the Italian government

to engage in guaranteeing security, dignity and the hope for a better
future for those forced to become refugees.

the petition Stand
as One: Together for those in flight

“OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline
Sicilia Onlus

Richard Braude