Supporting a Night-Time Emergency Centre for Unaccompanied Migrant Minors in Transit in Rome, Italy 

Project location: ITALY, Rome
Project start date: December 2011 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2011-56
Beneficiary: INTERSOS

 FINAL REPORT

(February - June 2012)

 After nearly 6 months since it opened, the Centre A28 has sheltered 385 guests (346 starting from 1st January 2012).

In the period 1st April to 30th June, the centre sheltered 176 guests, recording 161 new guests in addition to 15 minors already held in March. The minors housed are 158 in total (154 unaccompanied minors, 4 accompanied by one or both parents), while there were 3 adults with children (2 women and one man). As regards the reception, the trend has not shown any remarkable fluctuation: as a matter of fact, there were 46 new entries in April, which slightly increased to 63 in May; in June, instead, 52 minors were hosted.

Amongst the minors sheltered there were 155 Afghans, 1 Pakistani, 1 Senegalese and 1 Ghanaian. As for the 2 coming from Africa, it is worth taking into consideration that they were not migrants on the move, but rather minors who could not enjoy right away the "formal" reception. With referral to the Senegalese minor, such an hindrance was due to the Police wrong identification, while the Ghanese child was offered an emergency reception for a series of logistic problems prevented the centre from promptly performing the procedure of introduction to the reception circuit.

The present minors are on the average 15 years old (15,6 years old) and their average stay at the A28 Centre lasts about 9 days, against the 15 days "allowed". The quantitative data so far reported surely stress the extent and the impact that the A28 Centre has had on the phenomenon of minors on the move, though they do not highlight a series of aspects worthy of a further in-depth examination. For instance, the information related to the average stay of guests does not say much about the fact that a remarkable part of the minors hosted stops over for a short time (1 to 5 nights), while, on the other side, a group of the same size stays for a longer period (between 9 and 15 days): this refers to minors who are unable to leave and that sometimes are "stuck" in Italy.

Although this is in part "physiological" with respect to the minors' transit phenomenon - as it has been registered all along in Piramide area, as well as in Patrasso or in the different contexts affected by the transit of minors - such an impossibility to move may be caused by several and different crucial factors: from the various alternatives "offered" by smugglers, both in routes and in ways of travelling (by train, by airplane, by "cab"[1]), to the economic funds the minors have at their disposal. In fact, only a few minors leave Greece with the necessary liquid assets as to be able to leave again straightaway. Actually, the major part of minors has to wait for their families in the country of origin or for relatives (in Iran, in Europe or sometimes in the country of destination) to send them the money which can grant them to leave.

According to what stated by some minors, sometimes these operations take much time since families find it difficult to raise the amount of money required. In some other cases, minors have reported that they ran out of money because of robberies or frauds committed by smugglers themselves. Nevertheless, from the children's words and attitude one can infer another noteworthy element: the services offered at their arrival in Rome and the conditions characterizing their stay make their next departure less urgent and exposes them to a lesser extent at risk of being blackmailed.

All of this allows them, on one hand, to make more conscious decisions as regards the country of destination and the ways of departing, permitting on the other hand to exert less pressure on the families who have to fund their trip. Moreover, it fosters in minors a calmer and more listening attitude towards operators, who, in their turn, take advantage of such a situation and find it less difficult to provide information and legal counseling (see REFERRAL).

REFERRAL, NETWORK AND METHODOLOGY

During the past 3 months, A28 covered again a pivotal role and established itself as a hub for the different services offered to minors passing through the area of Rome. As for the drop-in, the activities of coordination and of close collaboration between the organizations working to help Afghan migrants guarantee greater and greater timeliness in the interception of minors just arrived to Rome, allowing to intervene to their advantage through an increasingly tighter and more capillary net. It is worth pointing out that, whereas the minor is not intercepted by the above-mentioned organisations, minors make themselves promoters of A28, bringing directly with them the newcomer. Although such an aspect had been widely foreseen, it raised several concerns about the way minors could have used the centre: for instance, we feared that would-be minors would have shown up at A28 door, forcing the operators to reject their reception request. Even though that actually happened a few times, in the assessment of such case record with relation to the number of "spontaneous" entries, it was proved it happened a lot less than we were afraid of.

In relation to the drop-in and the ways of access to A28, of the 161 new guests housed during the quarter under consideration, 73 were dispatched directly by "CivicoZero", 8 were intercepted and dispatched during the outreach trips carried out by CivicoZero team, 31 were reported by "Albero della Vita", 7 from the tensioned structure set in Torre Marancia, 1 reported from the "Afghan Association in Italy" and 41 spontaneously and directly turned to A28, due to the fact they got to Rome during the weekend or at night-time.

As regards the referral to external services, during the last quarter 5 minors were dispatched to two health care structures: 1 minor was taken to Sant'Andrea Hospital for a specialist medical examination in order to ascertain his age (propaedeutic to the report to the tutelary judge and to the following placement in a minors' reception centre), while 4 guests were taken to San Gallicano Institute because of skin-related problems. Moreover, 4 minors addressed the "Medici contro la tortura (doctors against torture)" doctor, working weekly at CivicoZero. Besides the above-mentioned health referrals, as many as 4 minors were put in the reception circuit during the period we are considering. In one case, we were addressed by a minor asking for such a procedure, although the impossibility to follow up immediately on his request made it necessary to place him just for one night at A28. The remaining 3 cases concerned minors on the move who, after spending a few days of "decompression" and rest at A28, decided not to keep on travelling, making an official request at a minors' reception centre. Actually, such a decision was triggered and favoured by some contingent and concomitant factors: on one hand it was caused by the physical and psychological exhaustion due to the transit, on the other hand by the opportunity to "breathe" and to take the necessary time to assess the different possible alternatives. These benefits were added to the opportunity to slowly establish a relationship with the operators, who, in their turn, become more and more trustworthy and influential in carrying out their duties (welcoming, protection, orienteering). All of this predisposes minors to listening and to openness towards the operators, who may detect the minors' real needs and arrange the activities accordingly. It is throughout this process that A28 gives rise to, for example, discussions where the group (made of minors and operators) can draw a balance of the migratory experience, share the memories of traumatic events or, on the contrary, be ironic about some cultural features or their personal backgrounds. These moments of sharing and elaboration are usually transposed to CivicoZero, where minors enjoy more time and a different range of modalities to express themselves. Furthermore, the day centre implements a number of activities aimed at informing children of the rights they are entitled to. It is during the informal exchange with the operator (working for A28 or to CivicoZero), or while taking part to workshops or to legal information activities that the minor realizes he can have access to usable resources, related not only to the temporary reception, but also to more complex situations. This is where minors' requests, concerning legal advice or legal aid, health care financial support or the simple need to be listened, take shape. During such meetings, minors report what happens while travelling: the acts of violence they suffer, the extremely dangerous conditions they experience, sometimes showing the marks they bear on the bodies. More and more often we are told experiences of detention and torture (in Iran, Greece, and in the Balkans too), even of gratuitous violence and of intolerance along the Greek streets, on the part of Greek police or the Italian port authority. Within the space of the 3 months we are considering, we registered many times extremely dramatic stories and detected high levels of physical and psychological distress. In particular, the urban guerrilla warfare event recently occurred in Patrasso and the death of 5 Afghan migrants on the way from Greece to Italy have had a great impact on direct witnesses as well as on the ones who simply learnt about it.

The whole methodological approach governing all the activities A28 is engaged in (from the reception phase to the entertainment activities and the supply of the basic services) is conceived as to give proper responses, consistent with the demands and the personal experiences just described. Therefore, everything is constantly focused to provide minors with a reception and a stay full of humanity, in contrast with their recent past. In that meaning, elements such as the recreational aspect, respectful listening and the attention paid to the single guest's personal experience become relevant and cover a pivotal role in the everyday running of the centre.

 

[1] They are private cars, driving groups made of 3-4 migrants to the North of Europe. They usually do not leave from Rome, but rather from cities such as Genoa, Milan, etc...; they are considered by a lot of minors as the safest way of travelling in consideration of the picture detection risk, being therefore the most expensive one.


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