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UNICEF publishes study on children on the move in Italy and Greece

8 August 2017  

The report Children on the move in Italy and Greece published in June 2017 by UNICEF describes the different reasons why children and their families as well as separated children have left their country of origin. The study illustrates the different experiences of these children on their journey to Europe and once they arrived in Italy and Greece. The Study was commissioned by UNICEF and carried out by REACH.

The interviewed children residing in Italy come from various countries in West Africa and the Horn of Africa. These children often decided to leave their homes individually and mostly because of problems or violence at home. Other reasons to leave their homes include poverty and conflict. Child marriage was also reported as the main reason for leaving by 1 out of  5 of all girls interviewed.

Less than half of the children interviewed left their home with the intention to reach Europe. The majority of children only decided to go to Europe once they were already ‘on the move’, and often because living conditions in North Africa or in a neighbouring country were worse than expected. The interviewed children in Italy unanimously stated that their stay in Libya was the most traumatising part of their journey on land.

The circumstances in Libya were for many a reason to flee to Europe by taking the dangerous Central Mediterranean sea route. For the children who did leave their home with the aim of reaching Europe, access to education and respect for human rights were important factors, whereas for the children who decided to migrate to neighbouring countries work was the primary factor to move.

In Greece, most of the children who were interviewed tend to flee their homes together with their family due to years of conflict and generalised violence in their country of origin (mostly Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan). The main reason for these children to leave their homes was the insecurity in their home country and the prospect of not seeing the situation improve any time soon. Many also left the country in the hope to be able to go back to school in a safe environment.
The majority of the interviewed children and their parents intended to reach Northern European countries such as Sweden, Germany and Switzerland. The reasons for them to migrate to these destinations were safety and the opportunity to have access to better education and work opportunities. However, with the closure of the Western Balkans route and the EU Turkey statement in spring 2016, these children inadvertently had to stay in Greece.

The children residing in Italy and Greece face many obstacles in realising their objectives. The children who stayed in Italy or Greece reported waiting for months, or even years, to receive a legal status, and those who want to travel onward find themselves stuck in transit for months, or even years. Because of this, many children decide to travel onwards irregularly and become even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) - coordinated by Defence for Children The Netherlands - PO BOX 11103 - 2301 EC - Leiden - 0031 (0)71 516 09 80 - info@scepnetwork.org