On June 16, 2021, Save the Children published on its website the article "Invisible minors: the testimonies of lone migrant minors traveling (through) to Europe", taken from the Report "Hidden in plain sight. Migrant minors traveling (through) Europe" written by the journalist Daniele Biella, assisted by the photoreporter Alessio Romenzi. It is a collection of testimonies by unaccompanied foreign minors, often no more than children, on the atrocities they have suffered or witnessed, especially along the Balkan route. It is clear from the two reports that the danger of trafficking and exploitation is real: in the absence of legal and safe routes, children and especially adolescents are exposed to great risks, such as crossing mountain paths at night, living on hardship, trusting anyone who promises them help in crossing borders. A very high number of psychological traumas attributable to violence, physical and/or gender-based, has been recorded and is increasing among minors, especially Pakistani ones.
In this regard, an investigation carried out in the territory of European states by the Guardian, in collaboration with the cross-border journalism collective "Lost in Europe," revealed that between January 2018 and December 2020, about seventeen children a day vanished. The analysis found that the majority of those missing over the past three years were primarily from Morocco, but also from Algeria, Eritrea, Guinea and Afghanistan. According to the available data, 90 percent were male and about one in six were under the age of 15. However, according to the study's authors, the information tracked was often inconsistent or incomplete, so the actual number of missing children may be much higher. The results of the survey raised serious questions about how willing European countries are to protect lone migrant children, who are among the most vulnerable to violence, exploitation and human trafficking. In fact, one of the most serious consequences related to the growth of the migration phenomenon is the increasing exposure of unaccompanied foreign minors to the risk of being involved in human trafficking: more than one victim of trafficking out of three in the world turns out to be a minor, and Europe - both Western and Southern - is among the regions of the world with the highest number of verified cases with underage victims.
What makes the situation even more tragic is that all of this is happening in broad daylight, at least for those who want to see it. The European Commission must commit itself to a Recommendation to the Member States or to another act of European rank that requires the adoption and implementation of policies to ensure the full protection of unaccompanied minors at the external and internal borders of Europe and on the internal territories. Moreover, at the Italian level, it is necessary to issue the implementing decrees of the so-called Legge Zampa (Law 2017, no. 47), which protect unaccompanied foreign minors. As if that were not enough, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the borders are even more closed and the freedom of movement guaranteed by the Schengen Treaty has been severely tested, if not severely compromised. In short, finding themselves in a foreign country in the year of the pandemic has become even more difficult for lone migrant minors. The obstacles they encountered most were: the suspension of education and literacy courses, the suspension of the activities of Immigration Offices and Territorial Commissions working for the recognition of refugee status, the suspension of family reunification procedures and the blocking of transfers, the failure to meet with voluntary guardians, who were not considered as relatives, despite being the closest figures for foreign minors alone [all this can be found on the website of Save the Children Italy, in "Helpline migrant minors - Report 2020"].
Recently, some war events have made the migration situation in Europe even more unstable. In particular, the reference is to the humanitarian crisis due - melius, aggravated by - the drastic worsening of the living conditions of the inhabitants of Afghanistan after the return to power of the Taliban. In this regard, the meeting of the Council of Justice and Internal Affairs was held on August 31, 2021, during which the European Union failed to expressly ensure protection to the Afghan people and, specifically, to minors fleeing the country. The European Union has reconfirmed itself as the great absentee in providing aid to the Afghan people, when it would have been - and still is - necessary to open safe channels for children and families as well as accelerate resettlement and family reunification procedures. Afghanistan's neighbouring countries already host the largest communities of Afghan refugees and find it difficult to provide safety, food, shelter and education to Afghan children and their families. As a result, children are often forced to leave school to work and help their families, while girls and young women often become victims of abuse and early marriage.