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UNICEF: over 4,300 minors assisted in four months, more than half in Lampedusa

ROME, MAY 5 – From the beginning of 2023 over 42,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Italy by sea, a figure that represents a strong increase compared to the 11,000 recorded in the same period last year, according to UNICEF data. Over 4,300 of them are girls, boys, and adolescents who arrived alone, without adult reference figures, a number that contributed to reaching, at the end of March, 19,600 unaccompanied foreign minors in the reception system. During the same period, UNICEF reached over 4,000 migrant and refugee minors in the main arrival, transit, and reception areas in Italy; of these, about 2,500 were reached with interventions in Lampedusa, together with Save the Children, and about 2,300 of them are unaccompanied foreign minors.

On the island, the team is present with operators including protection experts, educators, and cultural mediators, and has provided assistance in recent months to over 350 landings coordinated by the Coast Guard and the Finance Guard, supporting access to information, correct identification of minors, protection of the right to family unity, and management of cases of particular vulnerability, reporting to authorities and referring to specialized services. To guarantee protection for the most vulnerable subjects while waiting for transfer, UNICEF, together with Save the Children, UNHCR, and their respective partners, has also supported the creation of a safe space for women and children inside the hotspot, designed for daytime support, information, and care.

These days, although the tight number of transfers promoted by the competent authorities has reduced the pressure in the hotspots, the transfer times for minors are causing concern, and in some cases, the destination to other reception facilities. The failure to identify tailor-made solutions for children and adolescents indeed entails a risk of minors being removed from the formal reception system.

“UNICEF has already met in recent weeks with the extraordinary Commissioner for the emergency, Valerio Valenti, to share the concern for the critical issues recorded in the hotspot,” says Sarah Martelli, UNICEF Response Coordinator in Italy. “The government is accelerating transfers and increasing accommodation places to reduce the pressure in the hotspot these days. Inside the structure, we always meet people who are very tired from long journeys and, unfortunately, also from shipwrecks. We remind the importance of integrated and timely support from the early stages. UNICEF expresses satisfaction for the recent activation of the pediatric clinic on the island and for the strengthening of the health response with the figure of a gynecologist, essential for the care of survivors or those at risk of gender-based violence. We confirm our technical support at this stage to ensure the protection of children, adolescents, women, and families. We also hope that appropriate and tailor-made solutions will be found for minors, including the promotion of alternative forms of reception to large structures, such as foster care, and through small structures rooted in the territory that favor school reintegration paths and social inclusion.”

With the PROTECT project, financed by the European Commission, since January 2023, UNICEF, together with partners, including Save the Children, has reached about 4,000 minors and young people welcomed into the reception system in Italy with child protection interventions and skills development: over 3,200 minors have benefited from support services (information, case management, psychosocial support), over 1,400 survivors of gender-based violence or at risk have been taken care of and have benefited from specific support. About 200 field operators have been trained on the mechanisms of mitigation, prevention and response to gender violence. (@OnuItalia)

Il giornale Italiano delle Nazioni Unite. Ha due redazioni, una a New York, l’altra a Roma.

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