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Hidden in Plain Sight: Migrant children traveling to and through Europe 2022

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Save the Children Italy

With the arrival of warmer weather, there has been a substantive increase in the numbers of children crossing European borders. Between April and May 2022 alone, there was a 329% increase in the number of unaccompanied children in Oulx and Claviere in Italy, trying to cross the border in through the mountain range into France. On the other side of Italy in Trieste on the Slovenian border, this number has increased by 58%.

Child migrants continue to be rejected at borders and sent back to non-European countries, as well as to Italy from France, but many try again, sometimes up to 20 times, until they cross successfully – often in dangerous and desperate ways. There are some reports of adolescents dying while traveling outside and in Europe, from being electrocuted by trains to being victims of accidents in their pathway.

As of April 2022, there were 14,025 unaccompanied foreign minors in the Italian reception system, according to data from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies. The majority are boys, and almost 70% are between 16 and 17 years old. Children from Ukraine currently make up the largest number at about 28%, followed by children from Egypt, Bangladesh, Albania, Tunisia, Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire, and Afghanistan.

Though those fleeing Ukraine make up the majority of new arrivals in Italy, they are often hosted by relatives or foster families and are free to cross borders in the European Union with no pushback. There is a stark contrast in the treatment of children from other countries.

In a profoundly changed world scenario there are obvious traces of a two-tier refugee response in Europe, which is ready to open arms and doors to a population fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, but at the same time gloomy, brutal, and willing to use unjustified force against defenseless people, “guilty” of not having valid documents for entry, in fact in the same way in need of a place to take refuge.

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