Last Wednesday Italy’s parliament passed a new law with a broad majority, which introduces stricter safeguards for refugee children in the country. The reform was welcomed by humanitarian groups, including Save the Children who stated that it introduces the most elaborate system for child protection in Europe.

The new law introduces a series of measures including the insurance that unaccompanied and separate refugee children will not be subjected to “refoulements” and returns, a reduction of the time they spend in first-line reception centres, the establishment of a structured and streamlined national reception system with minimum standards as well as the promotion of guardianship for children, foster care and host families for children and the harmonization and improvement of age assessment in a child-sensitive manner.

Afshan Khan of UNICEF welcomed the new safeguards, stating that the law gives refugee and migrant children a sense of predictability in their uncertain lives after risking so much in order to reach Europe. UNICEF found that 16 percent of the 2016 arrivals were children, making a total of 28,223. Nine out of ten children that crossed the Mediterranean in 2016 were unaccompanied and routinely exposed to sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention on the Central Mediterranean route.

The new positive measures does not however reflect a new broader consensus of migrant protection. They are introduced at a time where media reports that the Italian Senate has passed a decree which expands the number of immigration removal centres and cuts the time limit for appeals of negative asylum decisions. The law is now under review by the parliament’s lower chamber.

In 2016 Italy had with 181,436 people arriving through the Central Mediterranean the highest number of incoming migrants in Europe, this trend continuous in 2017.

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Photo: (cc)  Ivan Rigamonti