New Law Addressing Unaccompanied Minors in Italy
After a long negotiation period, a new law addressing unaccompanied minors (UAMs) went into effect in Italy on March 29th. The main goal of the new law is to increase UAMs’ protections and defend their rights. The first reform regards the reception system.
− Minors’ refoulement is always forbidden;
− Expulsion is possible (as foreseen by current laws) but only if it does not cause “a risk of serious damage for minors”. In addition, a new provision concerning the decision must be made within 30 days;
− The time a minor can be detained in reception facilities (related to first-aid provisions) decreases from 60 to 30 days;
− Specific reception facilities are indicated to them to better meet their needs;
− Only one procedure can be provided to identify minors and it must be fulfilled within 10 days (no time limit was given until now). This procedure is aimed to verify the minors’ age in order to implement policies addressed to them.
The procedure to verify the minor’s age includes an interview between the minor and qualified experts which is supervised by local authorities. In case of doubts concerning the authentic age, it is possible to ask for a registry office certificate and social and health tests. To do this, the child's consent is necessary and the procedures should not be invasive. When, despite the procedures above mentioned, doubts on the authentic age still exist, the minor’s age will be assumed as a fact. The law establishes the National Database on UAMs based in the Italian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The UAMs’ Social Files - including the information collected and transcribed by qualified experts during the first reception phase - will be uploaded to the National Database.
The information will be useful for implementing long-term measures tailored to the minor‘s best interests. All UAMs have to be settled in the Sprar System regardless of available places. That being said, in keeping with the best interests of the minor, a foster family should be preferred as opposed to reception facilities. UAMs should be repatriated only when protecting family unity and therefore in the best interests of the minor. For this reason, accurate investigations must be conducted. The responsibility for these procedures falls to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to the Juvenile Courts. Finally, specific protection measures are laid out for specific categories of UAMs (such as trafficking victim UAMs) in view of their vulnerable status.