If you are under 18 years old and you are in Italy without your parents or another adult member of your family, you have the right to be protected and regularly stay in Italy at least until you turn 18.
You can use this article to know more on:
- Important things to know at your arrival
- How authorities will know you are under 18
- Your rights as an unaccompanied foreign child
We know some steps might be difficult to do on your own but don’t worry, we will also explain who can help you!
Important things to know when you arrive in Italy
As you are under 18 and you have arrived alone, Italian authorities cannot send you back at the borders or ban you.
Simply because you are under 18 and unaccompanied, you have the right to have a valid permit to stay in Italy, called Permesso per minore età. However, if you fear persecution or danger in your country, you may think of applying for asylum.
Regardless of whether you want to apply for asylum or not, you have the right to stay in Italy and to be hosted in a reception center for young people who are less than 18.
In order to have access to the rights and protection measures for unaccompanied children and adolescents in Italy, it’s important you help Italian authorities to know more about you and determine your age.
How authorities will know you are under 18
After arriving in Italy and having received basic needs (such as food, water, health assistance), the police will ask your name, surname, date and place of birth, and if you have any documents useful for your identification, such as: your passport, any other identity document, birth certificate or other documents including a photo of you. This is called ‘identification’, and if you are above 14, the police will also take your fingerprints.
The identification process should happen with the support of interpreters or cultural mediators speaking a language that you can understand, and in presence of your guardian. If you do not have one, a temporary guardian should be there with you.
Who is the guardian (‘tutore’ in Italian)?
A legal guardian or ‘tutore’ is an adult nominated by the Juvenile Court to assist you during some specific procedures and sign certain documents for you. For example, the tutore will be there with you throughout your asylum procedure, to help you register you with the healthcare system, or enroll you in school. One of the most important objectives and responsibilities of your tutore is to ensure that your rights are respected.
Usually, the tutore is a volunteer who goes under a specific training. Although you are not obliged to always keep in touch with him/her, the volunteer guardian could also be a supportive figure in your everyday life or difficult decisions.
It may take a while for the Court to appoint your guardian, so in the meantime the director of your reception center will carry out this role.
What if you have no documents and the police is not convinced about your age
If you have no documents with you, tell the police the truth about your age. In Italy, lying to authorities is a crime.
If the police do not think you have the age you declared, a judge may order an age assessment through social-health checks to determine whether you are less than 18.
According to the new legislation of October 2023, in the case of consistent and continuous flows of people arriving to Italy, police may proceed with checks like body measurements and radiography, even before the judge’s authorization.
These checks are conducted by specialized staff and include an interview, a medical visit with a specialized doctor, and an evaluation with a psychologist.
You have the right to be assisted by a cultural mediator, your guardian or the coordinator of your reception center during the examination – only if you want to.
If your age assessment is wrong, you can appeal to the Juvenile Court ('Tribunale per i Minorenni' in Italian) with the help of a lawyer within 5 days from the day you got the assessment notified.
Expulsion order after declaring false personal data
If, after the age assessment, authorities find out that you lied about your age declaring that you are under 18, you may get convicted with the offense of false declaration of your personal data. According to the new decree, the judge may decide to substitute your conviction into an expulsion order and you will have to leave Italy.
You can appeal with the help of a lawyer within the deadline you can find on the decision.
After the identification
Once you are identified as an unaccompanied child or adolescent, you will be transferred to a reception center for young people like you.
You will have a meeting with staff from the center and a cultural mediator, to better understand your situation, your needs and what is the option most suitable to your case to obtain a permit of stay.
As a general rule, unaccompanied adolescents are also hosted in SAI centers for minors, after initial reception in government facilities for minors aimed at immediate relief, identification and information. However with the new regulation of October 2023, in case of lack of spots in facilities for adolescents, if you are 16 or 17 you may stay temporarily in a center for adults, for up to 90 days.
Learn more on:
PERMITS OF STAY FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS ARRIVED ALONE
What are your rights?
As an unaccompanied child or adolescent, in Italy you have the right to:
- Receive information about your rights, participate and be heard in different procedures – with the assistance of an interpreter or cultural mediator, if needed
- Stay in Italy and get a Permesso per Minore Età, in case you don’t apply for asylum and don’t meet the requirements for a Permesso per Motivi Familiari
- Apply for asylum in Italy, and get your claim examined with priority
- Have a legal guardian (‘tutore’)
- Receive proper medical attention and register with the Italian health system
- Education and to professional training – note that education is also a duty until you turn 16!
- Stay in a reception center for people under 18 or to be hosted by a foster family (although the latter option is quite rare)
- Reunite with your family in Italy. If you are a refugee and your parents are outside the EU, you can bring them to Italy by applying for family reunification. If you do not have refugee status, your guardian has to request the Juvenile Court to authorize your parents or another member of your family to enter and stay in Italy to take care of you.
- Reunite with your family in Europe. If your mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandparent or another adult family member lives in another EU country and they have a valid permit of stay there, you may be able to join them safely. Learn more here
- Work only when you turn 16. However, if you are in Friuli-Venezia Giulia you cannot work until you turn 18.
- Return to your home country safely – and if this option is safe for you – via Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration.
Who can help
If you want more information about your rights, someone to talk to, or any other help, you can contact Save the Children Helpline:
- Call 800141016 (from all mobile operators)
- Call +393512202016 (from Lyca Mobile numbers)
The helpline is free of charge and active from Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can speak in Italian, Arabic, English, French, Tigrinya, Somali or Francophone sub-Saharan dialects.
If you would like to be reunited with a family member in another European country, you can ask your center’s operators or contact CIDAS:
- Call +393404277780 or +393428735259 or +393703326882
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