In 2017, the Italian Parliament, following a proposal by Save the Children Italia, approved the so-called Zampa Law, which defines a national reception and protection system for migrant children and adolescents arriving in Italy.
In particular, Law 47/2017 regulates an organic and specific reception system, with structures dedicated to the first reception-identification of minors - the maximum time of stay in these structures is limited, from thirty to sixty days - and the subsequent transfer to the second reception system in centers that adhere to the System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (Sprar). In addition, it promotes the development of family fostering as a priority way of reception rather than staying in facilities and establishes a set of standards for age verification and identification with the presence of a cultural mediator during interviews, creating a long-awaited uniform procedure at national level.
In addition, the law provides for a variety of techniques to protect the best interests of the child through:
- the establishment of the register of voluntary tutors by the Juvenile Courts;
- the pursuit of family reunification through investigations by the competent authorities in the interest of the minor, the results of which shall be communicated to both the minor and the tutor;
- the protection of the minor's right to health, with the enrolment of the minor in the National Health System even in the absence of the appointment of a tutor, and to education, by means of specific conventions for apprenticeships and the possibility of acquiring the final qualifications of courses of study even if, at the age of majority, the minor no longer has a residence permit;
- the protection of the right to listen to unaccompanied foreign minors in administrative and judicial proceedings concerning them (even in the absence of the tutor) and to legal assistance, making use of free legal aid at the expense of the State.
Once the normative reference framework has been exposed, it is important to turn the attention towards the migratory situation that, in fact, occurs in Italy and, specifically, in Lampedusa and Ventimiglia. These are, in fact, the two main frontiers of the European system of reception and protection for migrants, including accompanied and unaccompanied minors.
In fact, since December 2020, UNICEF and Save the Children have joined forces to support child migrants in Lampedusa and Ventimiglia, in an effort to provide an immediate response to the essential needs of children and adolescents, families and single women who have found themselves in those places. Among the interventions implemented are: psychological first aid, information about their rights and available services, assessment of specific protection problems - among which those related to gender violence are particularly relevant. Following the first four months of activity, UNICEF and Save the Children have decided to renew their collaboration until December 2021, aimed at supporting migrant children arriving via the central Mediterranean and Balkan routes.
Among the initiatives carried out as part of the joint program under consideration, there is the Youth Corner, a space for girls created within the Child Friendly Space (a safe place that offers listening and protection to lonely children and families). The services offered also include Save the Children's Helpline for Migrant Minors and UNICEF's U-Report on the Move. The support provided to Italian authorities by UNICEF and Save the Children mainly concerns the first phases of reception, i.e. those following rescue and relief operations, which are considered extremely important and critical in order to immediately recognize minors and promptly identify the most vulnerable situations, including those of survivors and survivors of sexual violence, gender-based violence and torture.
In this context, UNICEF and Save the Children also ensure that children have access to confidential spaces and interviews with trained personnel. In spite of all the protection operations already put in place, UNICEF and Save the Children continue to register rejections of unaccompanied minors at the border between Italy and France: therefore, the procedures for family reunification and relocation mechanisms between Member States are still too rigid. These are essential so that minors who want to reunite with a relative living in another European country, or whose relocation is in their best interest, can do so quickly and safely.