Unaccompanied and separated children in Italy: the right to be heard and to participate
Submitted by: Filomena Albano, Autorità Garante per l’infanzia e l’adolescenza (Italian Independent authority for children and adolescents)
Email: [email protected]
Introduction to the project
- As from October 2017 AGIA and UNHCR have been collaborating to facilitate and promote the effective protection of children in Italy. In line with the mandates and functions of each organization, such collaboration seeks to support the protection of UASC arriving in Italy, with particular emphasis on the promotion of child participation as a way of exercising their rights.
- The project is still ongoing with the aims to facilitate the right to participate and to be heard of young asylum seekers and refugees and UASCs who live in Italy.
The measures taken were specifically targeted on promoting children’s participation as a way of exercising their rights.
In this context, activities were carried out in 2017 and 2018 and 2019 and results were achieved thanks to the work and the availability of public and private social services and the participation of over 200 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) hosted in first and second reception facilities in 10 Italian regions. In 2017, activities were carried out with a view to supporting UASC’s right to be heard and to participate in the decisions that affect them. This was achieved through participatory needs assessment visits to children hosted in first and second reception facilities on the national territory. Drawing on the findings of the focus groups conducted in 15 first and second reception centres in 10 different Italian regions, it was possible to obtain a picture of risk factors, vulnerabilities and needs expressed and shared by children. This path clearly showed children’s need to be heard and participate in the decisions that affect them. All girls and boys asked to be informed and to be able to give their views on an equal footing with relevant adults. The outcomes of the visits are in AGIA’s Annual Report to Parliament 2017; further, they informed the structuring of the activities carried out in 2018. In 2018, it was decided to take a further step forward and put boys and girls at the centre of actions. Then started a new phase of work in which young migrants explained their perception of the hosting context to adults. The initial assumption was that effective participation must recognize and enhance the skills and resilience of children and adolescents, allowing them to better protect themselves and their peers.
A key concept in child participation is that children should be viewed as competent social actors, able to take decisions, to be active subjects in their contexts and to create social and cultural networks. The participatory activities implemented in 2018 were based on this principle. Although the activities were experimental in nature and had a limited impact, they provided a great opportunity for children to feel empowered and enhanced their skills and knowledge. Children hosted in the SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers) centres in Florence and Pescara made a substantial didactic contribution to the training courses for voluntary guardians organized by AGIA, as they participated as active subjects and not as mere witnesses. For the first time, a group of UASCs was involved in a training for the voluntary guardians. On the other hand a
photography workshop was organized in Rome held within and outside the reception centres were also noteworthy. To date, three public photo exhibitions have been held and others are scheduled for 2020. Activities enabled children to feel part of a process in which they were active subjects just like adults. In 2019 all the activities carried out in 2017 and 2018 with UASC hosted in reception facilities in Italy were systematized and the result was then published in the AGIA-UNHCR final report “L’ascolto e la partecipazione dei minori stranieri non accompagnati”1, also translated in English.
Starting from this results and in relation with the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the CRC, AGIA and UNHCR started a joint program of participatory activities with UASCs and their italian peers in 4 Italian cities with the aim of deepening the rights expressed by the CRC. The aim of the activities was to enhance the inclusion of the foreing minor in the italian society. In each city (Turin, Florence, Naples and Palermo) focus groups were organized between unaccompanied foreign minors and
Italian children with the purpose to improve fostering moments of exchange and discussion starting from the principles established by the CRC, on the other hand there was the scope of lowering them into everyday reality by trying to discuss in which way the rights were really apply in their life contexts. Furthermore, in the second part of 2019 AGIA and UNHCR decided to start a participatory workshop for UASCs hosted in reception centre in Rome. The course was designed to deepen media literacy, digital citizenship, hate speech with the aim of encouraging UASCs to have a positive and conscious online attitude by strengthening their trust, becoming content conscious producers and expressing their identity and own point of view on the topics in question. The action had a dual purpose: provide more tools to know and be more aware of social media; create a video in which children involved told their daily experience about hate speech, racism and xenophobia in Italy. The outcome of the activities is a video2. It was presented during the AGIA event "Rights in growth" organized on 19 November at the Ara Pacis Museum.
The action had a dual purpose: provide more tools to know and be more aware of social media; create a video in which children involved told their daily experience about hate speech, racism and xenophobia in Italy. The outcome of the activities is a video. It was presented during the AGIA event "Rights in growth" organized on 19 November at the Ara Pacis Museum.
- Offer children the opportunity to increase knowledge and awareness on their own rights;
- Contribute to the development and empowerment of children and adolescents involved;
- Offer children the opportunity to be properly informed and therefore make informed decisions;
- Allow children to play an active role in the decision-making processes and have the possibility to influence them; and
- Offer opportunities for active citizenship.
For the implementation and development of activities, UNHCR has financed the implementation of all the actions carried out. Furthermore, UNHCR and
AGIA have made human resources, from their respective offices, available with the aim of achieving the set objectives.
- United Nation Convention on the rights of the Child.
- Art. 12, Law No. 47 of 7 April 2017 – more specifically Art. 117, paragraph 2, letter m) of the Constitution – providing that facilities hosting children should meet “the minimum standards for services and assistance to children set for residential facilities”, and should be properly monitored. This will grant that the child’s best interest takes priority status when implementing reception measures, pursuant to Art. 18, paragraph 2ter of Legislative Decree No. 142/2015.
- Pursuant to framework Law No 328/2000 (Art. 6, Paragraph 2, Letter c), social services should monitor those subjects entrusted by law to carry out social interventions at a local level, namely municipalities.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Objective 2 of the GCR: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The good practice meets objective n.2 of the GCR, i.e. enhancing refugee self-reliance. Moreover, the good practice is also in line with the area in need of support outlined by the GCR of meeting the needs and supporting communities with regard to children, adolescents and youth. The presented projects includes resources and expertise to support age-sensitive services for refugees, and aims especially at the empowerment of refugee youth, building on their potential and resilience to find eventual solutions. The project builds upon the recognition, utilization and development of the capacities and skills of refugee youth, in order to include them in decision making processes.
- Ombudsman for children and adolescents of Palermo Municipality
- Tuscany Regional Ombudsman for children and adolescents
- Piedmont Regional Ombudsman for children and adolescents
- Municipality of Rome
- Municipality of Naples
- Professional · Social services of Florence, Turin and Pescara Municipality
- SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers)
- Primary and Secondary Schools in different Italian location
- Museo delle Mura (Museum in Rome)
- Museo Ara Pacis
- Teatro Spazio Diamante- Festival In-divenire
Challenges and how they were overcome
- In the development of the project one of the crucial challenges was the creation of a network of subjects working in synergy to achieve common goals.
- Each territory at local level adopts differentiated practices and methods of intervention. One of the difficulties encountered was the involvement of local networks in a national perspective.
How they were overcome:
- Each territory has different modes of intervention and territorial practices change from region to region. The AGIA and UNHCR offices have tried to listen to local needs by trying to incorporate national strategy into local dynamics.
Results of the Good Practice
- Involvement of minors (asylum seekers and refugees) in training courses for volunteer tutors as speakers. For minors it was an opportunity for empowerment and active citizenship.
- Through the creation of a photography workshop for minors hosted in Rome's first and second reception facilities, it was given them the opportunity to express their point of view on the issues that concern themselves. Minors have learned to express their emotions and thoughts with peers and adults of reference. Through the various exhibitions organized during the two years, minors had the opportunity to share their creativity and vision of the places that surround them.
- Through involvement in training courses for volunteer tutors and in the various laboratories about participation, minors have increased awareness of their skills.
- Support, self-help and mutual help between the subjects involved.
At present there is a schedule for activities related to the first half of 2020.
The offices are confident they will implement the activities until the expiry of the agreement.
In 2020 the intervention actions will continue through a systematization of the activities carried out in the previous years, with a specific focus on actions that enhance the right to participate of unaccompanied foreign minors.
The UNHCR-AGIA 2017-2018 final report on participatory activities will be translated in English.
In 2020 will be developed other participatory workshop which will involve unaccompanied foreign children and their Italian peers.
For more information about the project please visit: https://www.unhcr.it/cosa-facciamo/protezione/minori-non-accompagnati/ascolto-e-partecipazione