ITALY: Unaccompanied Child Refugees Recieve Shelter, Acceptance from Missionaries in Italy
(MissionNewsire) Salesian missionaries operate the Open Arms Community in the town of Camporeale, located within the Province of Palermo in the Italian region of Sicily. Here missionaries provide education and social development services to the many unaccompanied minors who come to Italy seeking a better life. According to a report by Caritas in Rome, a Catholic organization focused on ending poverty, promoting justice and restoring dignity, there are more than 15,000 unaccompanied minors in Italy and more than a third (5,588) of whom have disappeared leaving no trace and receiving no protection from those responsible for their care.
Through interviews with the unaccompanied minors being cared for in Rome, the report also sheds light on the expectations of these youth have for making the trip to Italy. Most are unaware of the legal and bureaucratic obstacles in their path as they seek to find a job in a short time of their arrival and pay off the large debts incurred in getting to Italy. It is not uncommon for these youth to end up on the black market, often in child labor or committing petty crime. Moreover, being involved in any form of work, whether or not they are being exploited, makes it difficult for them to attend school. And the lack of education and inadequate knowledge of the Italian language add to the problems they face
“Youth who leave their homeland alone are faced with many dangers in their travels,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Not only are youth subject to dangerous traveling conditions, in which they are exploited and abused, but once arriving at their destination they find they are forced to live on the streets and face the same conditions that they left. Salesian programs are working to give youth a chance to access safety, shelter and education to start a better life.”
Arthur, a 17 year old boy, accessing the Salesian Open Arms Community, came to Italy alone from Ghana. The oldest of three children with a father who is blind, Arthur was involved in a robbery, which he did not commit. He was wanted by the local police in Ghana and decided to emigrate. During his journey, he was stopped several times at customs and often mistreated by men who asked for money. After many difficulties, Arthur succeeded in reaching Sebha in Libya where he was beaten with a burning stick that scarred his arm. Before leaving for Tripoli, he was locked in a room and was subjected to violence, which his family was forced to listen to over the phone and was told they must pay a ransom for his safety. Arthur’s uncle managed to send $1,000 and a few days later he was able to leave for Tripoli on a small boat with 120 people.
After days of travel, Arthur arrived at the first-aid center of Pozzallo in Italy and was later connected to the Salesian program. He is one of 12, all young men from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Egypt and countries in sub-Saharan Africa, that have found refuge with Salesian missionaries. In the program, they have access to safe shelter, food and clothing, are able to call their families and talk to a mediator. These young men are also accessing literacy, Italian language, and skills-training to help find stable employment.
To help stop the flow of unaccompanied minors to Italy, Salesian missionaries have also started a Stop Human Trafficking Campaign, which is working to raise awareness of the dangers of youth migration focused on those leaving countries in Africa in search of a better life in Europe. The campaign is an initiative promoted by the Salesian-run International Voluntary Service for Development and the Don Bosco Mission Association in Turin, Italy.
The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of the dangers of human trafficking and to prevent youth from feeling like they need to leave places like Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Ghana, where people are most at risk of human trafficking. The campaign is providing analysis and research on the real reasons for migration; informing potential migrants about the risks of the journey and the real chances of success; and giving individual guidance to those who want to leave. In addition, the campaign, in collaboration with Salesian missionaries in Africa, will raise funds to help with program development in targeted countries in Africa to address some of the reasons why youth are leaving their homeland.