An unprecedented number of 65.6 million people worldwide, have been forced, for complex humanitarian and / or economic needs, to flee their country.

  • 5 millions of them are refugees, more than half of whom are under the age of 18 and mainly unaccompanied[1].
  • 10 million stateless persons who have been denied a nationality and the access to fundamental rights such as education, health, work and freedom of movement.

The Italian situation

Is more than 20 years that Italy is a border territory for the Europe immigration and in the recent time, the applications for international protection in Italy growth significantly.

Not EU citizens, regularly registered in Italy are 3,7 million, on a resident population of around 60 million, with a percentage of 22% of them who are youngsters with an age below 18 years old.


The most represented countries are

  • Morocco (454.817)
  • Albania (441.838)
  • China (318.975)
  • Ukraine (234.066) and the
  • Philippines (162.469) (Istat, January 1, 2017).

Italy passed from a period of arrivals for a prevalent ‘economic migration’ to a period of ‘family reunification’ until the current state with a large new kind of migration for political asylum and protection (see Istat, 2017). During 2016, Italy has issued 226.934 new residence permits for:

  • family reunification – the biggest part (45%)
  • political asylum and or the humanitarian reason – around one third (34,3%) – 2016 historical maximum number (an increase of 47% compared to 2015 – 84.085).
  • study (7,5%) and
  • generic reasons (7,5%)
  • work purposes – lower percentage (5,7%)

The main citizenships of asylum seekers of international protection that together cover 44.8% of the Italian incoming flows are:

  • Nigerian
  • Pakistanis and
  • Gambian

Recently, the number of arrivals seems decreases as a result of a bilateral agreement between Italian Government and Libya, to strengthen the patrolling of the Sicily channel.

Mostly of the migrants coming to Italy are men (74%) with a considerable share of minors unaccompanied (15%).

The main nationalities they declares at the arrival in Italy are:

  • Guinea (13%)
  • Nigeria (12%)
  • Bangladesh (11%)
  • Ivory Coast (10%)
  • Gambia (9%)
  • Senegal (8%)
  • Morocco (5%)
  • Mali (5%)
  • Somalia (3%)
  • Eritrea (2%).


Migrant as an opportunity

It’s interesting to note that, nevertheless the continuous increasing number of immigrants, the country experiments a population decline from 2015 and an aging trend that is more marked than in the rest of Europe. This trend has made Italy as a country with the oldest population in the world where around 20k people are also older than 100 years old.

Eurostat – index percentage of population (=>65/<=15 years old – 2015)[2]


Dinamica naturale e popolazione – Anni 1926-2015 (tassi per mille residenti e popolazione in migliaia)[3]


This is in my opinion an interesting fact because respect to the immigration, the country could really take advantage of new workforce, but this seems not at all in the political agenda.

All the most voted parties at the last elections in 2018 have remarked their best attitude to manage the flows closing the borders instead than to design a long-term vision able to consider the need of a reinforced workforce able to support the country’s production capacity.

In the opposite, migrants are seen as enemies and have been always kept out of the job market or just pushed to the lower qualified jobs.

This process started in the eighties with migrants from south America, Philippines and in general from catholic countries, Horn of Africa, Senegal and Morocco.

They have been placed in new professions like the maid (Italian “colf”) done by women and the ‘street vendors’ (Italian “vu’ cumprà” that is an abbreviation of the Italian version of: “do you want buy?”) mostly done by the men.

Nevertheless this was happen more than thirty years ago, today the migrants in Italy still cover in large part the lower and unqualified job roles.[4]

The programmes being offered to assist refugees including in the area of TVET in Tuscany region

The organisation I represent is We own different activities and coordinates various networks. At local level, our network for inclusion and learners mobility groups more than 100 organisations including companies, local municipalities and schools. is based in Tuscany, a region in the centre of Italy where over the 10%[5] of its 3,7 million inhabitants, around 315.000 persons, are immigrants from outside EU and owns a regular status.

Tuscany is devided in ten territories called Provinces, each Province hosts a Central Government Agency, called ‘Prefettura’, which holds a territorial council[6] aimed to monitor the presence of the immigrants under the socio-occupational aspect and to promote and coordinate local polices of integration.[7]

Under this coordination, the State, the Regional Government and the local authorities, in collaboration with the NGOs and, when possible, with the origin country’s authorities, facilitate the migrants integration deploying various programmes[8]:

  • Information on rights and opportunities for integration or for repatriation support
  • Language training
  • Civic education
  • VET programmes
  • Councelling and support to enter in the labour market

Together with other local cooperatives and NGOs, we deploy some of these activities related with the national polices on immigration. Our network deals, in particular, with:

  • reception for adults immigrants and refugees. (adult newcomers)
  • shelters for abused women (includes all groups of residents and newcomers)
  • reception facility (children’s home) for unaccompanied migrant minors (not only newcomers)

We have a house to provide accommodation and basic assistance to around 30 migrants belonging to the first group of adult newcomers. They have a first period that is addressed to basic support and assistance in waiting of their asylum or international protection approval. During this period they receive accommodation, clothes, food, a small allowance, medical assistance, language courses and legal assistance. When they are approved they move to a second period that is more consistent in terms of preparation to job and inclusion with VET courses and work placements. In both periods they can participate to social voluntary services within specific projects. Our service is provided in partnership with a local cooperative.

In Florence, our network manages under the activities of “Progetto Arcobaleno”, a first contact desk that receives any kind of disadvantage (not only migrants) and two shelters for abused women (only migrants) where the guests are assigned by the Central Government Agency – ‘Prefettura’

The Prefettura coordinates a so called ‘rete antitratta’ (anti slave trade) that is a network able to identify and collect the victims to the “Progetto Arcobaleno”’s shelters. The shelters are provided of a psychologist, the educators and the medical support. The targets of the shelters are:

  • Self-confidence and autonomy
  • Language learning
  • Medical care
  • Bureaucratic/administrative assistance
  • Work placement deployment
  • VET opportunities (also for self managing capacities)
  • Rare cases of job placement in apprenticeship
  • Security protection

The victims have frequently to face long terms debts contracted with criminal organisations, so it’s consequent that a large part of the work consists in dealing with their psychological conditions. In fact, even if they are in the protected houses, they continue very often to receive blackmail and threats that envisage tortures and abuses of their family members in the country of origin. For this reason they are at risk to turn back in the prostitution market or in other traffics.

Another important service given by “Progetto Arcobaleno” is the free legal assistance provided to all migrants with twelve voluntary lawyers in the city of Florence.

Our activity with unaccompanied migrant minors

Side to the activities addressed to migrant adults, our network hosts and cares also minors. This target is obviously important not only in Italy: the results from the OECD programme for international student assessment (pisa) show that in 2015, almost one in four 15-year-old students in OECD countries reported that they were either foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent.[9]

Migrant Resilience full size

In Italy, migrants youngsters below 18 years old are around 800.000 devided in:

  • ‘second generation migrants’ (73%), 584.000, born in Italy and
  • newcomers (27%) , 216.000

Here following the picture shows their countries of their origins:


Among this group, 18.303[10] of them are unaccompanied[11] and:

  • nearly 000 children registered are currently disappeared[12].
  • 7% of them are females
  • they are at an average age of 17 years old[13]
  • they are mostly located (for the 43% of the total) in the region of Sicily, that is the one more at south in Italy and just 3,6 % of them, 671 children, live in our region Tuscany.


Since there is no time to present all the services and different contexts that we manage, we will introduce only an example of the activities realised in Florence area in favour of a small group of these newcomers, unaccompanied migrant minors.

Challenges met by the educational community ‘LE TINAIE’

In particular, I’m talking about the community ‘LE TINAIE’, driven by our network partner the cooperative of workers “Gli Argini”. The mission of this community is to offer to children a real sense of belonging through the creation of concrete relationships.

The difficulties faced by migrants are many, but the one of the main obstacles they face is to obtain and subsequently maintain a regular residence permit and / or to obtain refugee status. Minors have a permit for ‘minor age’, but then they face this problem seriously after their eighteenth birthday when they receive a just 6 months permission in waiting of a job.

The children often arrive at the House as a landing stage after their incredible travel experiences and they think that this prove can pay back them to have the right to get benefits just being in the arrival country and not activating any growing process, studies etc.

They arrive in Italy bringing dreams about the different life style, the availability of technologies, the football and the sport cars and therefore they usually need to consistency reset soon their views to be located in the real dimension where they instead effectively are and to become aware of their real risks, opportunities and duties.

Often they move from their family without authorisation and experiment the travel as a personal and independent decision that gives to them the sensation of autonomy and capacity to face the life without the control of the adults. For this research of autonomy, they are initially sometime not open to listen external suggestions.

When they will be at the 18th birthday, they could have low chances and probably experiments instead high risks, if they will have not succeed in effectively understand, as early as possible from their arrival in the country, two main aspects:

  • what is the situation where they are and what are their potentials of failures and success
  • what is the relevance to acquire the school basic licence (licenza media) that is a pre-requisite to access to the job market

Without this awareness, the result could probably the work in black or the transfer to another country with renewed and different complexities, in the better case, but also, in the worst cases, the criminal circuits and the underground with illegal immigration status.

Usually they are aware about their need of job, but not aware about their need of competences. It’s a clear challenge of the House rules to make them aware of the value of VET and education in general, as they are very motivated to work, but often not also to learning.

It is important to know that until 18 years old the migrants are totally forbidden to have a job because their permit is for ‘minor age’ and not for work.

At the 18th years old they will have not anymore the House’s opportunity. If they have a relative not resident in the same Italian city, they will move to him/her losing all the social relationships built during the Community House’s period. They must be therefore provided with an attitude to build, at the occurrence, new relevant relationships.

The period immediately after the 18th birthday is very critical because at that time the legal permission is given for just six months in waiting of a job and a house. Only for particular cases of health diseases they can receive a special visa valid until 21 years old.

At the end of the six months permit, in case of missing of a house or a job, the permission will expire and they have to go back to their country of origin or to become illegal and it’s extremely important, for this reason, the capacity of the House to facilitate the acquisition of:

  • Skills for life and ethic skills
  • The achievement of the school licence (to access to VET opportunities and job market)
  • Basic skills for work through the participation to VET opportunities

For this purpose the community has a programme that foresees recurrent and frequent activities addressed to integration and individual grow up with the mission to make the children active citizens and not a burden on society or even delinquents.

The approach is to give to them a real opportunity of grow up by the human, civic and professional point of view and not just to be parked there for some year. The training aims to make them also able to say not, when it is necessary, to be proactive and independent with positive capacities.

Law respect, gender and human equality

There are basic behaviours that are part of the learning targets of the House’s experience:

  • Not stealing and respect of the law in general
  • Not mistreating anyone and women in particular
  • Fully respect of diversity

Especially the sexual harassment issue is of a particular attention. Certain individuals are completely shocked when they enter in contact with some occidental behaviour related to dress code, as for example when they access for the first time to a beach and they have to be supported to understand and elaborate the situations. This is an integral part of the training aimed to make them conscious of their own cultures, able to recognize the differences and able to deal with the given situations.

Many times there is also the need to re-set some wrong understanding related to the respect of the law in general. For example, there are some minors coming from neighbour countries that think that the Italian judicial system is very lazy and that for this reason it is possible to make violations. These preconceptions are obviously very danger and show a low consideration of the common rules and for this reason have to be changed assuring a strong training on the ethic skills area.

VET and entrepreneurship education

The VET system in Tuscany is under the Regional Government and it is sourced by both regional funds and European funds. The Tuscany Region implement the training through a network of 800 NGOs accredited and quality certified.

The House promotes the access to the VET courses organised by the Regional Government.

The entrepreneurial learning is also given as a concrete opportunity and experience of the House. All the children participate to small rewarding jobs like to work in the vegetable garden and then to sell the products to the market or to the relatives or to work in other small experiences of self-entrepreneurship implemented during particular occasions like local markets, events, etc.

Sometimes, VET activities deployed within the community are finalised to produce real parts or finished goods that are sold giving a real return of money to the community and to the children.


The house is located in the country side near a small village in the neighbours of Florence city and it is designed to host eleven children plus two places free for the emergencies. It’s a farm house surrounded by 30 hectares of cultivated ground. There are sleeping rooms, dining room, a relax room, study room, laundry and a small gym. It’s provided of a minibus and a car, but the children can also move using public services.

The children are both, migrants assigned by the Municipalities and Italians who need to be taken from their families for any reason. This condition of different statuses facilitates the migrants integration and the language learning.

For each guest the house receive 80 euros per day from the State. The first medical assistance is provided by a ‘family doctor’, who lives near the children’s house. The medical assistance is totally free for all the children and is provided through the public health service.

The children have free access to Internet. They own individual smartphones that are purchased with their own savings or sometime given to them.

The children have the right to get in the public school at the morning when they are younger of 16th, but this is not the most frequent case. When they are more than 16th years old, the most of the cases, they are too old for the morning classes and to get the lower level of diploma requested, the ‘licenza media’, they have to frequent the night schools that are for adults and provided by the municipalities.

To be admitted in the school they have to pass a test concerning the Italian language capacity. If they do not satisfy the minimum requirements, are not admitted and can only access to generic courses for learning Italian that other than the ones provided to get the school license.

In those cases, they often become unable to get in the future the licence of education because they will pass the 18 birthday and will not have further chances. This will represent a consistent obstacle for them to enter in the job market.

The house’s reception programme foresees to provide the children, from the first day, with effective language courses to facilitate them to access to the public school.

The activities are deployed 24 hours by a group of ten experts with a university degree. They are seven psychologists and three educators, sided by a small group of four volunteers from the local community, who provide support for transfers, meals organisation, spear time and cultural activities.

A trainee from the University of Florence is also available during the week to help the students in their house work. The house’s maintenance is in charge of one worker.

For their own expenses the minors receive a weekly allowance of ten euros. Sometimes, when they are involved in food production from the garden or in other small jobs, they can receive other small amounts to prize their involvement and success.

Every Monday the migrants take part to a meeting aimed to stress the group dimension and to give opportunity of debate, reflection, comments etc. During these occasions the rules are discussed and communicated, the initiatives are presented, the daily work is planned and assigned.

There are usually specific cases like for example small theft or entering drugs in the House that when happen are particularly treated during these fully participated meetings. With drug related cases there are specific steps activated like the periodic urine test and the temporary assignment to halfway houses.

Usually the children wake up early. Their daily life includes the kitchen tasks, the vegetable garden, to look, on voluntary base, after animals, the art-terapy, the meditation, to collect firewood etc.

They access also to the gym and to other free time activities and many of them also access to the support of an external psychologist. When they go out alone at the afternoon, have to be back before 8.15 pm. In case of delays there are penalties and after few hours of delay there is the obligation to immediately activate the Police.

[1] the latest data provided by UNHCR are constantly growing


[3] Fonte: Istat, Ricostruzione della popolazione residente e del bilancio demografico (a) Incremento percentuale medio annuo della popolazione.

[4] As underlined by various studies over the last 20 years (Zanfrini, 1996, Ambrosini, 1999 and 2005, Marucci & Montedoro 20009, Marra 2012), immigrants in Italy are placed in low-vocational work sectors (according to ISTAT 20166, 29.9% perform less than their professional qualifications and skills), with low salaries and very often without regular contracts, which exposes them to situations of serious exploitation and makes them extremely vulnerable from the point of view of rights and security at the workplace (Directorate-General for Immigration and Integration Policies, 2012).

[5] This value is higher of 2% than the national average

[6] I consigli territoriali per l’immigrazione, istituiti in ogni prefettura (decreto presidente del Consiglio dei ministri 18 dicembre 1999)

[7] Ultimo aggiornamento: venerdì 17 febbraio 2017, ore 16:36

[8] articolo 42 del Testo unico immigrazione

[9] The OECD report “The resilience of students with an immigrant background: factors that shape well-being” reveals some of the difficulties these students encounter and where they receive the support they need. The report explores the role that education systems, schools and teachers can play in helping these students integrate into their communities, overcome adversity, and build their academic, social, emotional and motivational resilience.

[10] 5,4% more than the year before and 53,5 % more than 2015

[11] The monitoring periodical report published by the Italian State at the end of 2017. Il Report di monitoraggio relativo ai minori stranieri non accompagnati presenti sul territorio nazionale è realizzato in ottemperanza a quanto previsto dall’articolo 33 del Testo Unico Immigrazione, dall’art. 19, co. 5 del D.lgs n. 142/2015 nonché dagli artt. 2 e 5 del d.p.c.m. n. 535/1999 ed ha cadenza quadrimestrale – propone una completa e dettagliata analisi del fenomeno e ne fornisce il quadro complessivo delle dimensioni e dell’evoluzione, attraverso i dati censiti dal Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali.

[12] fra questi le cittadinanze più numerose sono rappresentate dalla Somalia (15,9%), dall‟Eritrea (15,9%) e dall‟Egitto (11,5%).

[13] i sedicenni costituiscono poco più di un quinto del totale, il 9,6% dei minori ha 15 anni e il 6,7% ha meno di 15 anni

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