Italy has faced exceptional migratory challenges in recent years, and the increased number of arrivals between 2016 and 2017 has led to a significant growth in the number of asylum applications. Even if in 2018 applications decreased by 53%, this delicate situation generated the need to provide as well a structured and coordinated approach to asylum and reception governance.
In this scenario, a special focus has been reserved to the large number of arrivals of unaccompanied minors in Italy, who stood at 9051 by the end of September (94% of the total number of minors arrived on the Italian shores in 2017).
To address these challenges and fill other gaps in the child protection and reception system for unaccompanied minors, the Italian Law No 47/2017 on protection measures for unaccompanied children was adopted.
Among other provisions, Article 11 prescribes the recruitment and selection, training, support and monitoring of the so-called voluntary guardians. These are private citizens who act as the legal representation of a foreign minor who has arrived in Italy without reference adults.
Since 2017 EASO has supported the Italian Ombudsperson for Children and Adolescents - an independent authority aiming at protecting and promoting children’s rights including migrant children – in working on capacity building, the setup of a helpdesk and the development of other practical tools (e.g. manuals) for guardians on matters related to asylum, cooperation and relevant stakeholders. EASO has also supported the Ombudsperson in building awareness on the role of voluntary guardians among the public.
Since 2017, EASO has provided support in the training of 477 voluntary guardians, through 17 training sessions throughout the Italian regions.
In 2019 EASO has worked on the development of an e-learning platform for the training of the voluntary guardians. The platform will facilitate the Authority in gaining autonomy in addressing the training needs on the territory, depending on the migratory pressure that will be faced in the future. It also provides a blended teaching method composed of online sessions and only one face-to-face session, giving the voluntary guardians the opportunity to learn how to carry out the crucial role they play and improve their skills at anytime, anywhere.
At the moment, the Italian Ombudsperson for Children and Adolescents is testing the platform, which was delivered in September. The goal is to implement its use in all the Italian regions under the direct supervision of the Autorità Garante Regionale (regional ombudsperson).
After three years of close collaboration on the field and thanks to the development of the e-learning platform, EASO will have the opportunity to close the circle of its significant collaboration with the Ombudsperson for Children and Adolescents, leaving to the Authority all the expertise and the tools to autonomously manage its important activities for unaccompanied minors in Italy.