UNICEF and Italy aim to protect child migrants

Before the summer upswing of child migrants crossing between Libya and Italy will cooperate to provide protection support. 

On May 27th UNICEF and the Government of Italy signed the Declaration of Intent in Viminale, Rome, the seat of the Ministry of Interior. Chief of the ministry's Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration, Mario Morcone and Marilena Viviani, Director of UNICEF's Geneva Liaison Office were present.

16,478 refugee and migrant children arrived by sea in Italy in 2015 and an average of 1,000 a month have arrived this year in Italy. This partnership will aim to improve children's care and protection.

“This agreement comes in a landmark year, 25 years after Italy ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it became national law,” said Viviani. “Now its protection is being extended to migrant and refugee children, who have suffered war, persecutions and dangerous journeys.”

The agreement happened after UNICEF expressed alarm about the number of migrant and refugee children deaths in the past week in the Central Mediterranean and ahead of a possible spike during the summer in the crossing between Libya and Italy.

"These children need time for rest and recovery, spaces to play, and, most of all, protection against all forms of violence and exploitation. We need to ensure they have the future they risked their own lives to attain,” Viviani added.

The agency says the vast majority of children are unaccompanied. Minors face abuses, exploitation and death at every step of their journeys.

“The stories which I have personally heard from children making this journey are horrifying. No child should face them. Their lives are in the hands of smugglers who care for nothing other than the money they exhort from them,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier UNICEF special coordinator for the European Refugee and Migrant Crisis.

Under the joint Declaration of Intent UNICEF will:

  • Monitor reception standards for refugee and migrant children, especially those who are unaccompanied, to ensure they are in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Monitor the situation of refugee and migrant children in reception centers, particularly in the regions of Calabria, Campania and Sicily, in southern Italy.
  • Monitor all actions aimed at the integration of migrant and refugee children into Italian society.

Besides its work in Italy, UNICEF is adjusting its strategy to support humanitarian and longer-term needs of more than 22,000 children in Greece. It will continue to complement the work of EKKA, the National Centre for Social Solidarity to protect the needs of the most vulnerable children.

More so, in the release of the No More Excuses paper by the UNHCR and UNESCO, it was found just 50% of the refugee children are in primary school and 25% of refugee adolescents are in secondary school. The paper calls for countries to ensure access to education to those who have been forcibly displaced, especially in the Middle East.


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