Between 2014 and 2018, more than 70,000 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) arrived in Italy by sea, 90 per cent of whom were between 15 and 17 years old. The significant presence of UASCs in the country, and the growing number of UASCs who have turned 18 (about 60,000 in the last five years), have highlighted the need to understand the factors that affect the transition to adult life of UASCs in Italy, facilitating or hindering it, both individually and structurally.
The research – commissioned by UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organization for Migration – was carried out by ISMU Foundation in collaboration with Roma Tre University and University of Catania. The research has highlighted, first of all, the artificiality of a distinction between “children” and “adults” (UASCs who turned 18) that does not take due account of the transitional process of becoming adults, the sociocultural and gender differences that affect this process and the vulnerabilities to which this category of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are exposed to. The analysis also shows a prevalent incidence of contextual, subjective and relational variables relating to the personal resources, agency and resilience of boys and girls, as well as the networks of formal and informal relations activated upon arrival.
The innovative value of this research lies in the adoption – alongside the quantitative one – of a participatory biographical approach, based on the recognition of the right of children and adolescents to express their opinion on decisions that concern them personally, favoured by having a group of former UASCs just turned 18 as interviewers. This approach allowed 185 boys and girls to become protagonists with their multiplicity of stories, subjective difficulties, structural obstacles and support factors.