in Europe

Transnational Research on Central and South Eastern European Children in Italy

Research Project

Wagener Tamo and Milligan Claire | Mario Project | 87 pages
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This report is part of a wider initiative which seeks to identify migration patterns and
vulnerability factors that put children on the move from and within Central and South
East Europe (C/SEE) at risk. In Italy, the research focused on Romanian and Bulgarian
children carrying out economic activities on the streets of Rome and Naples.

The vast majority of children identified were of Romanian origin. These children were
mostly begging or selling small items such as tissues or keyrings. In general, children
appear to be migrating with their families for financial reasons – with earning potential
being perceived as higher in Italy than back home. Most children have been in Italy for
a large part of their lives, with a large majority speaking Italian and have no remaining ties
with Romania apart from through their parents. They work and socialise with their friends
who are often relatives or friends from similar backgrounds and in similar conditions.
Many consider that Italy is home.

Another distinct but related group of Romanian children in Rome were identified. This
group of children was working in the city’s main train station and it is believed they were
being controlled by a criminal gang, mainly adult males thought to be of Romanian origin.
This group was conducting a variety of activities for economic gain, including providing
assistance to tourists at ticket machines, pickpocketing and sex work. Stakeholders areaware of the existence of this phenomenon but very little is known about how children end up in this situation and the links between the different groups of children.

Out of the children identified by the team, very few go to school and according to
caregivers and community members, for those that do attend, it is subsequently difficult
for them to access the labour market.

Many of the children and their families identified appear to be of Roma origin, living in
“camps” (formal, tolerated and informal settlements) on the outskirts of the cities. None
of those interviewed had access to the national health system and appear to be socially
excluded from mainstream Italian society.

In comparison to overall numbers of children on the move coming to Italy, Romanian
and Bulgarian children conducting economic activity on the streets remain relatively few.
Nevertheless, they should not be ignored and are symptomatic of a wider set of issues
requiring urgent and long-term attention. All children have the right to be protected and
most countries of the world have, in signing the UNCRC, committed to do so. Within the
EU, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights also guarantees their protection and
both origin and destination countries are responsible for doing so. With EU expansion in
the coming years, widening economic disparities between countries and global instability,
among other factors, numbers of children on the move from both within and outside the
EU are extremely likely to continue to rise – learning how to protect them better now
will ensure that systems are in place to support this vulnerable group in the longer term.