The 300 voluntary guardians in Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island just off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot”, are overwhelmed with arrivals of unaccompanied minors mainly from Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria, Eritrea and Ivory Coast, local Italian media reported.
The Island starts a new guardianship training end October under new law to complement the 300 people acting as guardians for unaccompanied foreign minors on a voluntary basis.
Sicily has 7,000 youngsters with an average age of 15-17 years and mainly from Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria, Eritrea and Ivory Coast.
And so new training courses are set to begin at the end of October for aspiring guardians.
Law 47/2017 contemplates a guardian for every unaccompanied foreign minor, or at most for 2-3 minors in the event of siblings.
Aspiring guardians must be at least 25, without pending criminal charges, and undergo formal training before being inscribed in a special list at the juvenile court.
In Sicily training will begin at the end of October for 120 new guardians, taking the total to 420. Further training will be rolled out for new applicants in due course.
Until now the responsibility of guardianship has usually fallen to local mayors or delegated councillors, but the situation has become unsustainable.
In Palermo for example, the former city councillor for social activities Agnese Ciulla had over 500 unaccompanied minors in her charge.
“I was tired of looking on,” Patrizia Opipari told an Italian news organization ANSA.
“On 17 July I met the young boy from Gambia who has been entrusted to me. It has been an extraordinary experience, embarked upon without any knowledge of a foreign language, but in the end it made me want to learn and so we have launched an English workshop with other guardians, running parallel to the youngsters’ Italian lessons.”
Meanwhile, a reported 606 migrants, including a record number of children – 241 of whom one was six-days-old and 170 were travelling alone – have arrived in Palermo on Friday aboard the Aquarius rescue ship.
Many of the children were infants and toddlers with 11 pregnant women and several wounded people, including a young man who had injuries caused by a firearm and a machete.
Among them were an unspecified number of Gambians.