Foreign minors must “achieve a stability that encourages them not to abandon the centers or the host families with which they have been placed”.
At least 2,409 children of foreign nationality disappeared in Italy in the first four months of 2022, according to data provided by the Italian government.
This represents on average about 20 foreign children and 10 Italian children per day.
The government said in its report that as well as outnumbering Italian children at a rate of two to one, foreign children are also harder to find, as many enter the country through irregular means.
As a result, they are often placed in Italy’s migrant reception system, from which they often escape, according to government data.
The government commissioner for missing persons added that 72.11% of children and adolescents found in the first four months of the year were Italian nationals, while 31.17% were foreign citizens. This marks a slight improvement on last year’s figures: in 2021, 79.27% of those found were Italian citizens, while 26.35% were foreign nationals.
Police say that in order to tackle child disappearances, it is important to report a missing minor as soon as possible, as the first few hours are critical for investigators to locate and find the child.
This can be done by dialing the emergency services number 112 or the European hotline for missing children, which in Italy can be reached on 116000. There is also the police app YouPol, where missing persons can be reported .
While missing Italian minors often report family issues, cyberbullying and drug-related motives as reasons for their disappearance, foreign children and especially unaccompanied minors are often motivated by other factors, which usually involve to migrate elsewhere.
All children, however, are at serious risk, including being trafficked and exploited.
Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities and Family, Elena Bonetti, underlined the government’s commitment to combating this phenomenon through an awareness campaign, urging the public to call an emergency number as soon as a minor disappears.
The President of the Parliamentary Commission for Childhood and Adolescence, Licia Ronzulli, for her part declared: “the phenomenon of disappearances of minors is now taking on extremely worrying proportions”.
Ronzulli called for closer cooperation between schools, institutions and families to identify minors at risk and prevent them from fleeing. She also called for strengthening protocols for the protection of foreign minors and strengthening integration efforts.
Foreign minors must “achieve a stability that encourages them not to abandon the centers or the host families with which they have been placed”, she concluded.