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The workshop “Let’s take care of Villa Giaquinto together”, organised in Caserta by Cidis in the framework of the Popeye project, ended with a two-day event, on the 22nd and 23rd of May.

Throughout 15 meetings, unaccompanied migrant children from the Sai of Caserta – Casa Ariel, Casa Akim and Casa Amal – contributed to the redevelopment of Villa Gianquinto, a public park for children of over 9600 square metres, built on an area rescued from property speculation, right in the historic centre of Caserta. The young people, assisted by the tireless volunteers who manage the site, took care of the external areas of the park, creating a small vegetable garden with typical plants from the Campania region.

The initiative represented an opportunity for the youngsters to get closer to the world of voluntary work and to get to know those who live in the area, actively helping to raise awareness on ecological and environmental issues.

 

 

What amazed the children the most was the civic commitment of the volunteers of the Villa Giaquinto Coordination Board and of the citizens who, together, organised themselves to take care of the public spaces. It was an important moment of exchange for everyone that aimed at fostering integration and social inclusion.

“The importance of the involvement of the young beneficiaries of the project is the result of the belief that integration is achieved step by step by being and doing everything together,” says Irma Halili of Cidis, coordinator of Casa Ariel and Casa Amal, “So it was very important for us as operators to believe in it and to transmit it to the children by involving them and having them participate actively.”

During the course of the project, a very strong bond was created between the volunteers, the foreign minors and their Italian peers, and this is why the organisers are convinced that, regardless of the end of the project, the cleaning and maintenance activities will continue, as Halili herself explains: “Giving and receiving has an important meaning in feeling and living as an active part of society. Taking care of their new city is a very good starting point.”

 

 
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The numbers of refugees arriving to Europe and to the Czech Republic are in general at record low since 2016. According to the UNHCR statistics on arrivals of refugees to Mediterranean – by far the main migration route to Europe – there were over 1 million refugees and migrants arriving to the Southern EU Member States in 2016, some 373 thousands in 2016, and “only” 95,031 individuals arriving to the Mediterranean countries in 2020. In the Czech Republic we keep recording minuscule numbers of new asylum applicants below 2000 persons annually. In 2020, a total number of 1164 persons applied in the Czech Republic for asylum, including children and Dublin cases.

Surprisingly, unaccompanied minor refugees and migrants (UAMs) are an exception to the decreasing numbers. In 2018, we recorded a total number of 31 children arriving alone in the Czech Republic. However, in 2020 66 children in total, and in April 2021, a total of 67 UAMs were accommodated in different children homes all over the country. Almost all of them were Afghan boys in the age close to 18, almost all of them openly saying that their final destination was not the Czech Republic. It seems that a new migration route to Western Europe via Serbia and Romania is the most likely explanation of this situation.

The Czech authorities, children homes and OPU had to react very quickly on this situation despite the difficult Covid restrictions. New children homes were appointed as temporary accommodation places in addition to the experienced and well equipped Home for Foreign Children in Prague (ZDC (Prague). This has been a difficult challenge for many of the newly appointed homes with staff having no experience with refugee or migrant children whatsoever and little willingness to improve it because many boys were leaving the centers after a few days. Some children homes even prevented OPU lawyers and EPIC expert from getting in touch with the UAMs and with the centers´ staff claiming that all needs of UAMs are satisfied and the disappearances are anyway inevitable. The Covid pandemic restrictions were the authorities´ reason to stop some key OPU services in the centers, which has improved in the meantime.

In fact this lesson proved the importance of alternatives like the ones offered by the EPIC project. In a crisis situation and even more in normal situations, alternative family care is necessary, suitable and the cheapest option of care for foreign children without parents. It provides individualized care tailored to the needs of every child. Without a monitoring system that can help following the “destiny” of the child, a broader integration network is a necessary precondition for a faster and more successful integration of those UAMs who stay in the country and start their new lives in the Czech Republic.

 
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An official list of Recommendations and a joint Statement were released today by EPIC partner organizations following the seven e-roundtables held from the 22nd of October to the 2nd of December 2020, with the aim to improve alternative care services for Unaccompanied Migrant Children. 

The roundtables, which were organized online due to the current pandemic emergency, were attended by EPIC partner organizations and over 250 stakeholders. The aim was to share experiences and good practice related to their efforts to welcome and support migrant children who find themselves alone in the host countries. 

The activities and programs presented by the participants differ in many ways depending on the host country and on the background, needs and age of the children but they are all shaped around ensuring that each child is guaranteed the full and effective enjoyment of their rights. 

Along with the Recommendations, the nine EPIC partners released an official statement committing to creating more inclusive and welcoming cities. The statement calls for citizens and institutions in every European city to promote and support the integration and flourishing of unaccompanied migrant children with the goal to build a more inclusive and respectful Europe.

The Recommendations and the official Statement may be found below in English, Spanish, Italian and Czech.

Recommendations ENG
Recommendations ITA
Recommendations ESP
Recommendations CZE

Statement ENG
Statement ITA
Statement ESP
Statement CZE

 
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Fondazione L’Albero della Vita presented a few days ago, on the 10 December 2020, the volume “Due famiglie per Crescere. Riflessioni e proposte per favorire l’affido famigliare” (Two families to grow. Reflections and proposals to boost family fostering).

The book, published by Carocci, collects several contributions on the instrument of foster care, its use in Italy and possible prospects for development. There is also room for the Italian experience of foster care for unaccompanied migrant children, a practice strongly encouraged by the institutions, but which is certainly difficult to systematize throughout the country.

The publication was presented at the conference “Far vivere e crescere l’affido oggi”. High- profile professionals from the institutional, academic and non-profit world participated to the event, offering perspectives of dialogue and reflection, with the aim of encouraging the development of foster care and improving existing practices. Among the speakers Laura Purpura, coordinator of the foster care services for our project partner Comune di Palermo, intervened in the session “Approaches and experiences of family foster care – public and private”.

The publication is available in Italian here.

 
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Epic member Reach for Change has together with a local incubator BLING Startup been granted support from the Swedish Postcode Foundation. The initiative aims to work for a more inclusive social innovation sector and empower social entrepreneurs from socio-economically vulnerable areas.

“For 10 years, Reach for Change has worked to identify and support social entrepreneurs in Sweden and around the world. We see that those who live close to the problems are those who are best suited to solve them. But there are structural challenges that make it more difficult for some local innovators to be successful – for example, depending on where they grow up, they may not have access to capacity building support, networks and capital. This means that society is missing out on social innovations with the potential to create real change”, says Nicklas Wallberg Country Manager Sweden, Reach for Change.

Through the initiative, Reach for Change and BLING Startup will make entrepreneurship more accessible and recognized as a potential career path in socio-economically vulnerable areas in Sweden. The organizations will develop collaborations with the local community, the public sector and the business sector with the goal to connect these communities with the assets available in the greater Swedish startup ecosystem.

The key activity for the initiative is the Entrepreneurship Competition “För-orten” (For the suburb), that was initiated by BLING Startup, BK Bussen and Atletico Rinkeby in 2018. The competition, which previously was held in one community outside of Stockholm, will expand next year into a national initiative.

“Through the competition, we provide an infrastructure that evens out the conditions in the entrepreneurship sector and makes more people dare to go after and realize their dreams and ideas,” says Deqa Abukar, co-founder of BLING Startup.

 

The European Commission presented earlier this autumn, on 23 September, the New Pact for Migration and Asylum, a document long awaited by all parties involved in the management of migration processes in Europe, which also includes aspects of child protection in migration.
With this document, the Commission aims to “structure a framework that ensures a fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity between Member States and at the same time guarantees certainty for all individuals seeking international protection in Europe”.*

Two macro areas of action are therefore outlined:
The efficiency of the system of border control and verification procedures, which can speed up waiting times and guarantee respect for human rights, through an independent monitoring mechanism;
A distribution of the famous quotas of migrants among the Member States, organized however through three different options, which States have the freedom to choose. Each State would then have an allocated quota of migrants; however, it can decide whether to receive the migrants, sponsor the return, giving the necessary economic resources for such return to the country of first arrival, or support to third countries for the management outside the EU borders of migrants, or of those being returned.

With regard to the specific issue of the protection of minors and unaccompanied or separated migrant children, there are certainly aspects of attention:

  • widened the definition of family giving the possibility of reunification also between siblings;
  • the right to remain in a Member State where a diploma has been obtained is guaranteed,
  • more emphasis and attention is given to the respect of the principle of the best interest of the child,
  • access to education systems without discrimination,
  • as well as respect for the right of the child to be heard during the entry procedures, and
  • the commitment to implement alternatives to detention for children and their families.

However, the decision to exclude only UASC and children under the age of 12 from border procedures was of particular concern, thus reducing protection for all children aged 12 to 18 years. In fact, it should be remembered that border procedures very often provide for detention.
This rule, together with the rule providing for the possibility to detain children and UASC for national security reasons, contrasts with international and regional standards that consider such detention practices as a violation of children’s rights.**
Civil Society has reacted with a certain degree of critics to the document, underling the failure to overcome the Dublin mechanism and a structure that risks to not guaranteeing the respect of migrants’ rights. Nonetheless, also the political parties in the European Parliament, as well as the Member States have expressed their doubts about the proposal. On the one hand those who define it as still not very brave in imposing a principle of solidarity between states, on the other hand those who want at all costs to elude the management of migrants and do not like this new optional mechanism either.
The reactions once again shade the light on the different political positions Member States reiterate on the migration .topic. The hope is that European Institutions will start from this proposal and will try to find the right compromise among States without failing to protect migrants’ human rights.
Here you can download the fact-sheet with summary information on the new pact for migration and asylum, or the full text is available here.

 

* New Pact on Migration and Asylum factsheet European Commission
** https://picum.org/more-detention-fewer-safeguards-how-the-new-eu-pact-on-migration-and-asylum-creates-new-loopholes-to-ignore-human-rights-obligations/

 
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The Municipality of Macerata has activated two specific projects to face the Covid19 Emergency providing help and assistance to its citizens: Macerata Vicina and SOSteniamoci.

The Macerata Vicina project was born with the aim of providing support to the fragile population during the lockdown. During these two months people in need hav had the possibility to call a toll-free number active every day from 08.30 to 18.30. A group of volunteers  was always available and ready to operate from the headquarters of the Social services provider company (Azienda Pubblica Servizi alla Parsona IRCR). During these two months, they offered  their services to carry out home delivery of necessities (food, medicines, bags for recycling and IPR donated by various associations) to all the people asking for help.

The phone number registerd a total of 3,228 calls, all of which were answered to the full satisfaction of the citizens, as witnessed by the thanks that arrived in the feedback. The success of the project comes from the effective networking between public, private and voluntary organizations that have constantly coordinated, 23 meetings and about 2,000 online contacts in just two months!

 

The project “#SOSteniamoci – no one saves himself alone” includes two actions: a crowdfunding campaign and a food collection in supermarkets. For this last action, the following have actively collaborated: the Social Services for the reception of requests for help, the Listening and First Reception Centre for the operational management of reports and the Civil Protection, with the contribution of private social workers and volunteers from the National Civil Service, for the operational collection and home delivery of food parcels; parcels made up of the goods generously donated by the citizens.

Particularly significant was the donation made by an American citizen of Macerata origin, who bought 52 kilos of pasta from a pasta factory in the Sibylline Mountains that had been hit by the earthquake to donate to the citizens most in need, thus combining two acts of solidarity and two continents.

 
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Since the end of last February, like everyone else in Italy, the guests of the residential structures of Farsi Prossimo Onlus have been living in isolation without the chance to go out. Beyond the obvious discomforts that it has created, this emergency has made it possible for both the operators and the guests who benefit from the services to adapt and act on their own initiative, and has revealed unexpected opportunities on several fronts.

In an emergency that, even before the suspension of travel and work activities on site, imposed the closure of all schools and the interruption of teaching activities in Italy, Farsi Prossimo Onlus has placed at the centre of its priorities, in addition to guaranteeing the continuity of the provision of basic services, educational and health care assistance, schooling, training and linguistic tutoring of its users.

Why? Would the consequences of a suspension of studies have such a negative impact on the learning path of students in the different communities?

Paola Piras, trainer employed by Farsi Prossimo Onlus, says that the answer has to be found at a relational level. It comes from this intuition ‘From distance learning to close learning’, a training course addressed to the team of Italian as a second language teachers, which focuses on relational needs. From one meeting to another, starting from a reflection on strategies to reduce distances in distance learning and on the ways to relate through the new tools available, they explore platforms and software to interact remotely and their potential, the forms of teaching through synchronous and asynchronous classes.

With the growth of online learning offers, several technical needs have gradually emerged in the various communities. The Intercultural Day Care Centre has been at the forefront with its partners to ensure that the necessary equipment could be available to offer the online courses that have primarily served the communities for unaccompanied migrant children, mother-child communities and women’s communities.

The educators, privileged observers of the recipients of this new mode of learning, stress its critical aspects and advantages. Despite the logistical difficulties (management of spaces; stability of connections; lack of direct interaction with the teacher), all emphasize the student’s empowerment that this modality entails and the strengthening of digital literacy even for younger users, so confident in the use of social media, but often uncomfortable even in elementary digital operations, such as sending an email. Both of them will be precious resources for their greater and personal involvement in future choices.

 
Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

UASC, unaccompanied or separated children are boys and girls who have arrived in Europe without parents or adults legally responsible for them.
The large migration flows in recent years have recorded a constant influx of minors, mainly teenage boys, between 14 and 17 years of age, in European countries.

In 2019 about 33,000 children reached the European borders, among them more than 5,000 were UASC.*
Between January and June 2019, 8,236 minors arrived in Greece, Spain, Italy and Bulgaria, including 2,794 (34%) Unaccompanied or Separated Foreign Minors.**

Unfortunately, there is quite often the risk that this children are not treated as such, but simply as migrants, without the adequate services and attention which could and should ensure their best interest and well being.
In the different European countries, many alternative forms of care have been experimented in these years, but there are still more opportunities for further enhancements that can be dicovered and promoted thanks to an exchange of information and the fostering of mutual knowledge among the key actors in different countries.

The EPIC project sets this as its main objective:

to create new opportunities for exchange and training to enrich not only the skills of individual operators, but the whole alternative care systems in the countries where the project takes place.

Moreover the project seeks to promote in particular foster care for UASC, which has proven to be an effective instrument to protect Unaccompanied migrant children and give them more opportunities for integration in the communities where they settle.

In this website it will be possible to deepen the theme of alternative care for UASC and discover the activities and good practices carried out by the partners of this project, located in different European countries: Italy, Spain, Czech Republic and Sweden (discover all the partners).
To stay up to date on the project, and on the initiatives that will be addressed both to professionals in the reception sector, but also to families and individuals supporting UASC, as well as all those who are interested, you can subscribe to the newsletter here.

 

*Data from European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

** Data from International Organization for Migration

 
Children in Migration
In 2019, over 140,000 migrants were apprehended after crossing the EU’s external land or sea borders in an unauthorised manner. Among them, about 33,000 claimed to be children, including over 5,000 who were unaccompanied.
Children in Migration 2019The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has recently published the annual report 2019 on Children in Migration.
Since September 2015 FRA has collected data on this specific issue and this year’s report covers the main concerns identified in FRA’s Quarterly Bulletins on migration in selected EU Member States (precisely Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, North Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands).
The report contains relevant data as the numbers of children arrived in Europe and key findings on the main challenges concerning the fundamental rights of children in migration throughout the entire process from the entering in the EU to the risk of detention and return.
A paragraph is dedicated to guardianship systems for unaccompanied migrant children reaffirming once again that despite significant progress, important gaps remain to be filled.
In the document only four cases are mentioned as example (Croatia, Greece, Hungary and Malta) but the Guardianship system is widespread within many other European Countries and all of them share the need for improvement in order to guarantee a better care and better chances for Unaccompanied migrant children.
The report can be read and downloaded on the FRA’s website
logo fadv The project is coordinated by Fondazione l'Albero della Vita