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Unaccompanied foreign minors between dispersal and criminalisation
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(by Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, 20.5.2016)

This article notes that the media are increasingly reporting cases of unaccompanied foreign minors who are disappearing in Italy, linked to alarming phenomena including people trafficking, the trade in organs and exploitation. While traffickers exist and the trade organs does not appear to be especially relevant at the moment, the author argues that other important issues are not being spoken about or reported. These include:

- that following the Dublin Regulation which is in force it may take children a year to join their families through family reunification procedures, yet they can reach their relatives in the country where they are staying and apply for asylum by travelling 'irregularly' across Italy's borders in a week;

- that the procedures to ascertain their age following disembarkment are so slow and cumbersome, when they are not arbitrary, that obsolete methods to establish their age are used, there is a failure to presume they are under-age when doubts exist and that they sometimes declare they are adults, sometimes because they are advised to do so by traffickers;

- that nobody reports what happens in reality in reception centres for minors, beyond their poor conditions which do not comply with national and regional regulations. There is a lack of cultural mediators and psychologists in various centres, minors who are recognised as such a few months before they come of age may spend months without meeting anyone, and without their legally appointed guardians knowing about their fate, resulting in their possible applications remaining blocked, as is their access to social rights. Cases in which the managers of the centres are appointed as guardians or tutors do not guarantee safeguard of the "child's best interest", apart from giving rise to conflicts of interest;

- nobody is alarmed by the length of procedures for the recognition of humanitarian protection and the difficulties in obtaining access to the procedure when there is a refusal to have their fingerprints taken or delays in appointing a legal guardian, as the waiting times grow longer…

This fascinating article continues by outlining a series of other irregularities which are becoming routine practices. This occurs especially because of rules adopted by "circular letter" concerning unaccompanied foreign minors. Thus, the first reception and assistance centres in Lampedusa and Pozzallo, which have been re-defined as 'hotspots' [which minors should not even enter], have become places in which they are held for weeks if not months.

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