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Not minors. Photo supplied

Italy: ‘Minors accepted, but they are 40 years old’

Immigrants declare an age, but to verify it is very difficult. Thus they end up in structures that cost the Italian taxpayer between 70 to 100 euros a day.

Published: September 10, 2019, 11:46 am


    There are many, and almost all of them obtain a residence permit and are housed without distinction in expensive reception facilities. The unaccompanied foreign minors represent a large part of the approximately 500 000 migrants that arrived in Italy between 2015 and 2019.

    Many minors are not children in need of care. Some “don’t have hair”, others look “35 years”, yet they are welcomed as if they are children.

    The data shows that of the 7 580 immigrants registered in Italy as minors, over 63 percent are 17 years old and another 22,5 percent are 16. The “children” in the 0-14 age group number only 502. Is it possible that almost only youngsters have decided to take the sea route via the Mediterranean to reach Italy?

    At the end of January the attorney of Syracuse, Antonio Scavone, boarded the Sea Watch 3 anchored offshore, and noted that “some minors have a dubious age because they have no documents with them”. The prosecutor also noted that the asylum seekers had all declared “as a birth date January 1” or only the year (2002) which, incidentally, allowed them to define themselves as 17 years old.

    In Friuli Venezia Giulia, Antonio Calligaris, the League party’s regional councillor told “Pakistanis and Afghans declare themselves minors but, very often, they are over 40”. Of the 498 “minors” registered in the third quarter of 2018, 93,8 percent are between 16 and 17 years old. Of these, 87 percent come from Kosovo, Pakistan, Albania and Afghanistan.

    “Some of them have white hair”, says Karim, living in housing for minors in which the oldest of the “fake” young people “is over 30 years old” and should not be there.

    The problem is that nobody checks carefully. “When I arrived,” explained Mohamed, a former guest in a center for MSNA [minor accommodation, ed.], “I declared a date of birth but the authorities did not check.”

    He pointed out: “I was born in Pakistan in 1995, but my parents registered me in 1997.” But no one has investigated his true age.

    The police have their hands tied. “The practice is that they declare an age and the story ends there”, explained an agent who asked to remain anonymous. Italy trusts their words. “The investigations are carried out only if the minor commits serious crimes,” added the policeman. “The trick is also known to them” and they take full advantage of it.

    To change the rules of the game is very difficult because Article 5 of the law on this issue states that “if there is doubt as to the stated age” the immigrant after trying the diplomatic channels, may be ordered by the Court to submit to a social and health assessment. But it has many limitations. “The error range is 3-4 years,” explained the agent. And so the law dictates that, in case doubts remain about age, “it is presumed for all legal purposes”.

    For the State to verify every single case would be a considerable expenditure of energy. Migrants thus exploit a broken system: they arrive in Italy, declare themselves minors and get all the benefits.

    In fact, to obtain a residence permit for minors is much easier, because only 26 percent of them do not qualify for the asylum. The figure is very different for the average adult, who in 67 percent of cases are denied and must return to the country of origin.

    The burden for tax payers is mind-boggling: For 2020 and 2021, a cost of 170 million euros is expected. “The structures cost from 70 to 100 euros per day per migrant,” explained Luca Colussi, legal guardian of the minors. The amount is almost twice as big as for an adult immigrant.

    “It does not seem right that in structures for boys they end up there in the 40s. It would be enough to carry out checks to save a lot of money and not provide services to those who do not deserve it,” said Calligaris.

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