Pathways to autonomy for unaccompanied minors: reflections from the international exchange in Vienna

Friday 29 March 2024

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How can we guide unaccompanied minors toward achieving complete autonomy and personal fulfillment in the context in which they choose to live? CIVILHOOD aims to strengthen and improve the knowledge and skills of operators and professionals who work with unaccompanied minors.

For this reason, with a view to strengthening and improving their knowledge, Safa Neji- Volunteer Service Coordinator of Centro Diaconale La Noce, Cristina Lo Presti, a SAI Minors worker and Lisa Caputo- activist of the Palermo Refugees Welcome Italia territorial group and the project coordinator for CESIE, Georgia Chondrou, took part in the international training of the CIVILHOOD project together with altrз 16 participants from Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia and Austria.

This heterogeneous group of participants had the chance to acquire, build, and deconstruct stereotypes about minors during the program. This activity and the related work have been important for understanding the needs of minors, and to strengthen their knowledge and skills in order to guide them towards their path to autonomy.

The exchange of opinion during informal moments created a space for sharing working models, thoughts and points of reflection. The same happened during the visits at the UNHCR headquarters at the United Nations, in a school, and in a housing community.

Due to the topic’s intricacy and the time constraints, it was difficult to cover every aspect of the subject, even though the training days were rigorous and packed with material to debate and delve deeper into. It is necessary to plan and organize activities and topics more broadly in order to focus concretely, effectively, and deeply on how to provide professionals and unaccompanied minors with useful tools to achieve complete autonomy. This will help to overcome the “individualistic” approach in favor of a more “systemic” one. This is especially true for a thorough discussion of individual autonomy, especially for unaccompanied minors.

It was nevertheless feasible and crucial to discuss participant thoughts on the activities conducted during the day, including dissatisfaction with the dysfunctional European bureaucracy system. These opinions emphasized the necessity of having a thorough and solid vision for a concrete proposal for changing some European policies. The objective of this vision is to establish a unified legal framework that offers advantageous administrative procedures to safeguard the rights of unaccompanied minors, including legal protection and aid. This will enable the “supreme interest of the child” to be effectively implemented, which goes beyond a mere moral obligation to become a genuine legal duty that all European nations must adhere to.

Certainly, this international training reminded all of us how important it is to network, and it was a great incentive to continue in this regard even upon returning to Italy. It was important to see how each country, in its own way, tries to best build pathways of welcome and autonomy for youth who arrived as unaccompanied minors in Europe, and the diversity of perspectives was certainly a stimulus to explore issues and modes of action perhaps not previously used in our context.

From many informal exchanges among the participants and also from field visits, it became clear that the most effective pathways are those that take into account the aspirations and aptitudes of individuals. the UKI Center, for example, offers schooling pathways of different types and that effectively succeeds in linking the world of education and training in general to the world of work, with pathways of insertion that have resulted in true inclusion, could be a good model to study in an attempt to adapt and apply it to our contexts

To this end, during the CIVILHOOD project, several materials were developed suggesting new practices and good practices that can be adopted at national and European levels.

Read about the project resources here! For more information contact Georgia Chondrou: georgia.chondrou@cesie.org.

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.

Partners

For further information

Read more about the project.

Contact Georgia Chondrou: georgia.chondrou@cesie.org.

CESIE