National Report – Italy

As the numbers of migrants arriving from war-torn or poverty-stricken countries to the Italian shores through the migration routes increase dramatically day by day, it is high time that the Italian state and society have to assist these people adapt in a new reality. When it comes to young people and refugees or asylum seekers this need is even more pressing considering their age and fragile situation.

According to the International Organization for Migration and the local authorities, in 2016 a total of 181,436 migrants arrived in Italy and 123,370 are those who asked for international protection. Only between the 30 of March to 5 of April 2017 1,659 newly arrived migrants and refugees were reported to have arrived in Italy, which is in most cases the country of first arrival in Europe. The migrants arriving to Italy in 2016 and in the early 2017 were mostly from Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Gambia. When it comes to minors, according to Save the Children, more than 25,800 unaccompanied minors arrived in Italy by sea and at least 3,000 have arrived so far this year[1]. In addition, 9,1 percent of applicants of protection status in Italy in 2016 were minors and 4,6 percent unaccompanied minors[2].

According to the Italian Law, a Refugee is a foreign citizen who is found outside of their country of citizenship due to the well-founded fear of being persecuted due to race, religion, citizenship, belonging to a particular social group or having particular political opinions and cannot or does not wish to return in his/her country of origin due to the fact that they will (or they fear they will) be denied protection there or they will be persecuted. The definition of Italian Law for refugees ,also, includes , for legal reasons, a stateless person, who has left the country they previously resided on the basis of the same fear. The asylum seekers in Italy should make their request known at the border police or the head of the provincial police and then the procedure takes 3 days to six months until a migrant knows if he/she has been granted the refugee status[3].

In March 2017 Italy took an innovative step related to young migrants, with the parliament giving final approval to a law outlining comprehensive standards of care for unaccompanied migrant children arriving in the country, including a strict prohibition of refusing them access at the border, decreasing the time they can spend in preliminary welcome centers and setting minimum standards for these facilities, setting a 10-day maximum to identity confirmation and ensuring their access to health care. With this legislation,  which was also hailed by the United Nations, Italy became the first country in Europe to ensure comprehensive standards of care for unaccompanied migrant minors.

People who work with young people in Italy don’t fall into a certain category with a clear definition and laws regarding their work and there is not a clear definition about the youth that they are working with either. According to the report  “Working with young people: The value of youth work in the EU” by the European Commission, youth workers in Europe are generally those who work with people aged from 15 to 29 (others put the limit to 36)[4].

Youth work in Italy is mostly non-formal, non-professional  and non- statutory and controlled mostly by the Local Departments for Youth Policies in the Municipalities that organize the activities based on the regional needs, with the most prominent youth work organizations being “Forum Nazionale Giovani and Agenzia Nazionale per i Giovani”. Youth workers work in different organizations of the third sector, instead of the public one, but in the recent years the cooperation with formal educational institutions is promoted. Youth workers are, also, sometimes assigned the duty of the legal guardian of minors seeking asylum in Italy by their municipalities.

Italian youth work doesn’t have a big tradition; in fact, it was introduced in Italy in the 90s with the help of relative European Programmes . The first youth workers in Italy worked mostly for church organizations and scout associations and on a local and territorial level in most cases.

Youth work in Italy is more organized and regulated since 2006 and the establishment of Ministry of Youth and Sport and the National Fund for Youth Policies,  which supports vocational training, culture, and social integration . Currently youth work is getting more popular through funded voluntary exchange programs, even though the funding for youth work activities is shrinking. However, people who work with the youth in Italy do a remarkable job and now they are called to face the challenge of working, also, with young refugees and asylum seekers.

The Italian youth workers planning to work with young refugees and asylum seekers should be aware of the migration situation and the harsh reality young migrants find themselves in. That means they should have a social sensitivity and an understanding that young migrants have usually witnessed really unpleasant and stressful situations, have in many cases psychological or even physical traumas, are prone to getting exploited and might feel hopeless with regard to their future. Furthermore, youth workers should be aware of the status of young refugees and asylum seekers in Italy and of the terms and definitions relative to migration in general (such as The Dublin Regulation, the asylum procedure in their country, etc.). Last but not least, youth workers should have some minimum knowledge of the bureaucratic procedures that young migrants have to follow, in case they have to assist them with[5].