It is a great pleasure to welcome you to “children on the move.” We are proud to have organized this side-event with our friends from Mexico, Save The Children and the NGO Committee on Migration. I am also extremely pleased to welcome Assistant Secretary-General Simonovic.
I will keep my remarks short, since we are expecting a good discussion today.
There are two main reasons why we decided to support this initiative: First, because – as our distinguished panelists will explain – there is a need to deepen our understanding at the United Nations of a phenomenon that has so far been given insufficient consideration. The numbers are striking: an estimated 33 million international migrants worldwide are under the age of 20, and 11 million of them are children between the ages of 15 and 19. These children, especially when unaccompanied, are at risk of numerous violations – the first that come to mind are child labor and trafficking. Against this background, there is a need to better coordinate development, migration and child protection policies, which address the needs of children and can respond to violations of their rights. This can be achieved only through a joint effort of Governments, UN agencies, relevant international organizations, and civil society organizations.
Second, because – for geographical reasons – Italy has long been confronted with the challenges of managing large flows of migrants, including children, a number of them unaccompanied. This is therefore a very serious issue for my Country. Our laws and policies are aimed at ensuring the highest level of protection for the child, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I wish to emphasize our partnership in this crucial endeavor with UN agencies, international organizations and NGOs such as Save the Children.
In particular, Italy has focused its efforts on prevention through bilateral strategies against the irregular migration of unaccompanied children and on the general management of this phenomenon. To this end it has elaborated, in cooperation with the Egyptian Government, an intervention program defining shared instruments and guidelines for the prevention of the irregular migration of unaccompanied minors through information campaigns on the risks of this form of migration and reintegration projects in the country of origin. One such project has been implemented in the region of El-Fayoum with the aim of updating the facilities, equipment and the didactic content of a vocational school. While another project called “Back to the Future” (2008-2010), funded by the EU, was implemented with Albania to tackle and manage this phenomenon together.
A large amount of resources have been made available by Italy for foreign unaccompanied minors. We have set up a “Fund for receiving foreign unaccompanied minors” with 5.000.000 Euros to be distributed among the Italian Municipalities that have sustained costs for receiving unaccompanied minors. We have also adopted measures promoting socio-economic reintegration for unaccompanied foreign minors, guaranteeing their stay in Italy until the age of eighteen. In particular, each child is granted an “individual endowment” for his or her personalized intervention plan (PIP) with 3.000 Euros going toward the vocational development of the child or, in alternative, with 5.000 Euros toward the promotion and management of his/her job placement process. The total funding amounts to 5.498.000 Euros, which in 2013 were attributed to 1.226 individual endowments. Italy also supports the return to the country of origin of children that express their will to do so (through: travel documents, ticket purchase and accompaniment, if necessary, assistance to the minor with the family-social-educational program and their subsequent professional reintegration).
Yet it is clear – from our experience – that there is a need for better transnational cooperation rooted in a common child protection agenda. This challenge cannot be addressed in isolation. And it cannot be addressed without listening to those who are directly affected by it – that is, children. This is why we hope this side-event can be the beginning of a conversation to be continued in October, during the high-level dialogue on international migration and development, which should eventually be able to deliver policy guidance to member States.
I wish to conclude by encouraging everyone to think for a moment of the experience these children have to go through. Far from their home and often their families; travelling in difficult if not horrendous conditions; sometimes betrayed or abused by those they have trusted; not knowing when and if they will reach their destination and what is awaiting them: the only thing these children expect is to be helped and to be protected. It would be shameful if we did not live up to these expectations.