Launched at the Annual General Assembly of the European Foundation Centre (EFC) held in Milan, Italy, in May 2015, Never Alone is a collaborative initiative of Italian and European Foundations for unaccompanied and separated children and youth in migration in Europe.
The European and Italian context
Both in Italy and in Europe, the number of children and youth on the move without a parent, relative or guardian has been growing steeply, particularly since 2011. According to data from Italy’s Ministry for Labor and Social Policies, the number of unaccompanied and separated minors in Italy that at year end 2011 had been 5,959 soared to 17,373 by December 31, 2016. The majority of them come from Egypt (16%), which is still their main country of origin, followed by Gambia (13%), Albania (9%), Nigeria and Eritrea (8%). They are mostly male (93%), and 92%% of them are aged between 15 and 17 years; in particular, the latter are nearly-adult youths with specific needs and their number tops 9,800. Unaccompanied and separated minors are mostly taken care of in the Italian regions where they landed: Sicily hosts some 40% of them (about 7,000 children and youth), followed by Calabria with 1,400 minors and Emilia Romagna that hosts over 1,000 minors1.
The number of those who go missing is shocking: 6,561 minors at year end 2016 in Italy, while Europol reported that at least 10,000 children and youth have vanished off radar after their arrival in Europe. These children and youth are vulnerable to becoming victims of violence, abuse and exploitation by criminal networks.
The Italian situation is to be seen within the broader European context, which is complex and varied. As said earlier, in Europe, too, the number of unaccompanied and separated minors has soared and the number of unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking children and youth has climbed from about 11,690 in 2011 to nearly 54,000 in 20162. Of these 11% applied for asylum in Italy (5,930 applications for international protection, almost double compared to 2015).
Never Alone: objectives
Developing effective programs for the social inclusion of unaccompanied and separated minors in migration is therefore a challenge that goes beyond national borders. Local and national responses alone are not enough, and solutions to this crisis are to be found through Europe-wide endeavors. Never Alone falls within the European Programme on Integration and Migration (EPIM), an initiative of the Network of European Foundations (NEF), an association of European foundations formed for the development of common projects. The European foundations partnering up in EPIM have been working on migrant issues in Europe since 2005 and for children and youth on the move in Europe have established a specific EPIM sub-fund.
The Italian participants in the Never Alone initiative include: Compagnia di San Paolo, Fondazione Cariplo, Enel Cuore Onlus, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Torino, Fondazione CON IL SUD and Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena.
Never Alone has also been launched in Belgium, Germany and Greece, promoted by the Bodossaki Foundation (Greece), the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (Greece), the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium), the Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation (Germany), the Latsis Foundation (Greece, Liechtenstein), and the OAK Foundation (Switzerland).
Having mobilized in aggregate more than €6 million in Europe, Never Alone pursues the following goals:
• supporting civil society organizations, strengthening and innovating care programs for unaccompanied and separated children and youth on the move as well as programs facilitating their transition to adulthood;
• improving the capacity of civil society organizations, local authorities and agencies to advocate for and support unaccompanied and separated minors, at national and European level;
• strengthening EU advocacy, working with European institutions to promote harmonization of member-state policies and practices, compliance with common standards and orientation of EU funding management strategies.
Actions are being implemented at European-transnational level (capacity building and sharing of good practices for the organizations engaged in the care and social inclusion programs for minors as well as advocacy at EU and national levels) as well as at national level: in Italy, Greece, Germany and Belgium, there has been testing of new approaches to reception, care and integration of unaccompanied and separated minors in migration, enhancement and dissemination of good care practices, monitoring of activities and national advocacy efforts.
The main expected outcome is improved care by local services of unaccompanied and separated children and youth in migration. There will be reinforcement and innovation of the capacity of all players involved (local authorities and agencies and third-sector organizations) to take care of these minors and integrate them in ways that ensure full respect of their rights and attention to their individual needs.
Results will be monitored, validated and disseminated at two levels (Italy/Europe), identifying best practices. In addition, in Italy there will be networking and formation of a community of practice to generate and share knowledge to the benefit of all local players engaged in the care of unaccompanied and separated children and youth in migration.
In Italy, following a call for proposals titled “Never alone. For a viable tomorrow” eight projects due to start in April 2017 were selected for funding. The lead organizations, places of implementation and funding of these projects are as follows:
- Centro Italiano Aiuti all'Infanzia Onlus, Milan – implementation in Sicily - €550,000
- CESVI Fondazione Onlus, Bergamo – implementation in Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Sicily - €560,000
- C.I.D.I.S. Onlus, Perugia – implementation in Calabria, Campania, Latium, Umbria and Veneto - €560,000
- Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud, Palermo – implementation in Sicily, Apulia, Marches, Latium - €260,000
- Dedalus Cooperativa sociale, Naples – implementation in Campania - €420,000
- Fondazione Museke Onlus, Brescia - implementation in Lombardy - €380,000
- Istituto Don Calabria, Verona – implementation in Emilia Romagna, Sicily, Veneto - €340,000
- Save the Children, Rome – implementation in Sicily, Latium, Piedmont - €430,000
Ensuring good geographic coverage with actions carried out in 12 regions of Italy, these are mostly multi-regional projects prominently featuring as place of implementation Sicily, which is the Italian region hosting the highest number of unaccompanied and separated minors. These projects include interventions in all areas identified in the initial stage of the initiative: helping children in their transition to adulthood, strengthening and increasing foster care and volunteer guardianship practices, care of girls. A total of 75 third-sector organizations, local authorities and agencies are engaged in these eight projects.