Rethinking autonomy without acronyms – pathways to autonomy accompaniment of unaccompanied minors

Tuesday 27 February 2024

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The socio-relational, labor and training dimensions of those working in the reception sector are interconnected dimensions to the extent that we decide to activate new forms of knowledge and intervention that by rethinking the concept of “autonomy” try to get closer to the cultural frames of the individuals included in such pathways, their instances and needs.

It is commonly thought that socialization activities in the territory are ancillary when from several looks it has emerged that instead they are preparatory opportunities for autonomy because experimenting in contexts other than those of the community with young Palermitans or entering into mentoring processes, says Lisa Caputo activist of the territorial group of Refugees Welcome Italia – Palermo, allows them to create their own network of exchange and support.

Choosing which activity to attend, be it a workshop or an educational or sports experience is the first step in structuring a greater awareness of oneself and one’s interests. Here is the call for operators and caregivers to take the time to explore the interests and propensities of guests in the construction of a truly individualized IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) project in spite of sketchy approaches that favor massive enrollments in the same pathways-an aspect emphasized by Manuela Caporarello, head of SAI Finocchiaro Aprile.

Issa Fadoul Bichara, linguistic-cultural facilitator inside the active participation intercultural programs, tells about the importance of creating opportunities for interaction between born and raised youth in Palermo and strangers in order to accompany them to the recognition and overcoming of mutual prejudices and stereotypes. Roberta Lo Bianco, a trainer within the same programs adds that in order to create an intentional intercultural society, it is essential to work together with culturally diverse groups on issues such as culture shock, critical incidents related to different cultural models, and in general to an education of differences as an antidote to discrimination and racism.

We are in a stringent historical political moment with an immigration decree that makes residual the only possible life chances to be lived through “healthy” forms of protection. And so the unaccompanied minors who arrive remain among the few people the Italian state recognizes as having a form of protection. Alice Argento emphasizes how the process of care must necessarily pass through a timely legal intake that can enable persons under the age of 18 to obtain a residence permit for minors in the right time. Delaying such intake means condemning these minor-aged people who have arrived alone to fragmented and risky paths.

Work is the common thread in the pathways of minor persons who have arrived alone. It is the most worrisome as well as urgent issue in a city that tends to “exploit” people with little awareness of their rights. Ousman Drammeh stressed the importance of launching job orientation courses to stimulate the acquisition of knowledge tools with respect to one’s skills, rights and duties. The only way to counter phenomena of exploitation and caporalism is to make people aware of their value and the context in which they move.

It becomes clear that if the state does not allow a regularization of immigrant people in our territory, labor exploitation remains the only mode of survival. In this framework, the figure of those who work inside reception centers and those who have the role of teacher inside educational institutions is of key importance to de-construct educational approaches, strongly ethnocentric and accompany people of minor age in paths of approach to the territory, respecting their cultural peculiarities and values.

These are educators, who in the different functions they perform, are neither respected nor properly educated. Educators whose rights are ignored, with salaries that never arrive on time, with growing frustrations and little supervision, become pawns in a perverse system that extinguishes all motivation. Turn over and more and more young operators and youth workers with no experience come into the lives of these unaccompanied minors with little preparation and with models of intervention that use the Western paradigm as the only possible look.

A look that cannot allow a rethinking of autonomy that also passes through what Solange Santarelli, L2 Italian Teacher reiterates as the need to “decolonize our minds” and in the school field proposes a valorization of the mother tongues spoken by boys and girls because those languages are a cultural heritage that cannot be forgotten. Finally, Safa Neji, Volunteer Service Coordinator and intercultural mediator at the Diaconale la Noce center, insists on the importance of multidisciplinary teams within which each professional has a key role and a shared vision of the paths of the guests.

Among the various reflections that came in, the systemic issue remained open, the framework of which provides for downward work with increasingly shorter times of reception and accompaniment and logics aimed at standardizing pathways. People make a difference in care processes, but it really seems that they have to make efforts, unrecognized by the system itself, to ensure quality accompaniment work. As Georgia Chondrou, coordinator of the CIVILHOOD project, reiterated, the project’s activities at the European level have demonstrated the same difficulties, which is why in imagining change we must also keep in mind the European perspective, imagining actions that can change the territory in which we live by having as a basic idea that migrating is a right for all and should be guaranteed.

These reflections were the result of a shared territorial moment within the CIVILHOOD project, which allowed both minor and operators to train and educate themselves with a view to building common paths and using tools that can enhance the people who live in our territory.

To learn more about CIVILHOOD write to

About the project

CIVILHOOD – Enhancing unaccompanied minors transition to early adulthood through civic education and labour market integration is a project funded by the AMIF, DG Home Affairs – Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund program of the European Uninon.


For further information

Read more about the project.

Contact Georgia Chondrou: