Terre des Hommes Italy continues its work at the Pozzallo dock in Sicily to provide first assistance to migrant children and women

The Foundation expresses serious concern about the announcement of a new legislative decree that could seriously narrow the protection of migrants children.

Pozzallo, October 3, 2023 – Since Saturday morning, when the ship Louis Michel disembarked in Pozzallo, with 60 migrants on board, including 27 minors, the Terre des Hommes Italy staff has been assisting the children and mothers who were on board the vessel showing severe vulnerabilities.

The Terre des Hommes Italy team has been able to meet the migrants directly on the ship and provide them with initial emergency psychological support to assess and report the needs of the people on board, especially the youngest ones. One of the children found on board, accompanied by his mother, was severely malnourished, weighing only 4 kg at one year of age. He was immediately transferred to a hospital facility, and the Terre des Hommes Italy staff is closely monitoring his case to ensure constant psychosocial support and protection for him and his mother.

“The landing on last Saturday is unfortunately just the latest in a long and intense series that we have been witnessing in recent months. During the first emergency psychological support activities, we have encountered pregnant women, exhausted physically and psychologically and unaccompanied children” said Valentina Gulino, a psychologist with Terre des Hommes Italy. “The transit from Libya continues to cause profound wounds, sometimes irreparably affecting the psychomotor development of children.”

“We have been present in Sicily since 2011 with the FARO program, supporting landing and initial emergencies for Unaccompanied Migrant Children, as well as families with children. We know these faces and these stories. They all ask to be welcomed and protected” said Federica Giannotta, Head of Advocacy Domestic Programs for Terre des Hommes Italy.

Terre des Hommes Italy is concerned about the complex psychophysical conditions in which migrant children arrive and it considers the measures contained in the new Immigration Legislative Decree, recently approved by the Italian Council of Ministers, to be dangerous as they risk severely limiting their protection, undermining values and principles that were considered established in our country, in clear contrast with not only Italian but also international norms, such as those of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely signed in the world.

For all children and adolescents under the age of 18, without exception, the same Convention provides for accommodation in centers dedicated to them, never in mixed facilities with adults and certainly not in sections of centers intended for the latter, whose inadequacy for minors is well known. Moreover, this separation is even recognized in the prison context, and failing to ensure it in a context of such extreme vulnerability as that of minors and families fleeing from wars and torture cannot be accepted.

Any differentiated treatment of those who “at first glance appear to be over sixteen years of age” as stated in the press release of the Italian Council of Ministers that approved the Legislative Decree on September 27, poses a high risk of producing discrimination between Italian and foreign minors and is in dramatic contrast with the principle of respecting the best interests of the child.
The text of the rules adopted by the Italian Council of Ministers is not yet available, nor has it ever been shared with those in civil society who have been working with migrant children, boys, and girls for decades in Italy. However, based on how these rules have been described in the press release and explained in the government’s press conference, they clearly go against the stated principles and risk undermining the exemplary norms of Law No. 47, adopted in 2017 with wide parliamentary support.

If the text confirms the approach expressed in the statements, aspects such as the lack of reference to well-founded doubt, the absence of prior written authorization from juvenile magistrates and guardians, and the application of “anthropometric measurements or other health assessments, including radiographs,” carried out directly by law enforcement agencies with subsequent expulsion of anyone declared erroneously an adult through this summary procedure, open the door to a risky fate and potential serious violations of the fundamental rights of thousands of potential minors, especially those from so-called “safe” countries who are destined to undergo accelerated border procedures if incorrectly considered adults.

For anyone who cares about the care and protection of children and adolescents, this is unacceptable.

TERRE DES HOMMES ITALY FOR THE PROTECTION OF MIGRANT CHILDREN: From 2011 to 2019, the Foundation operated consistently in Sicily with the Faro project, providing legal, psychological, and psychosocial support to more than 6,000 unaccompanied foreign minors and families with children. Since July 2021, it has been operational again in Pozzallo at the dock, the Hotspot, and some reception centers in the province of Ragusa, where it offers psychosocial support and guidance to migrant minors. Since March 2023, Terre des Hommes Italy, thanks to a partnership with UNICEF Italy, has been operational not only in Ragusa but also in Genoa and Milan, with activities aimed at ensuring the mental health and psychosocial well-being of unaccompanied foreign minors. Furthermore, Terre des Hommes Italy is a member of the Migrant Minors Working Group, working to promote the implementation of the Law of April 7, 2017, No. 47, “Provisions on measures for the protection of unaccompanied foreign minors,” using the principles and provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other norms for the protection of minors as a reference.


About Terre des Hommes
Since 1960, Terre des Hommes has been at the forefront of protecting children worldwide from violence, abuse, and exploitation, and ensuring that every child has access to education, informal learning, medical care, and food. Currently, Terre des Hommes Italy operates in 23 countries with 150 projects benefiting children. The Terre des Hommes Italy Foundation is part of the Terre des Hommes International Federation, working in partnership with the EU DG ECHO and accredited with the European Union, the United Nations (UN), USAID, and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Italian Agency for International Cooperation (AICS). For more information, please visit www.terredeshommes.it