Introduction

 

The GATE initiative considers the life and migratory experience of children  as a crucial dimension to orient responses and practices. By assuming this angle, the central role of the child as a primary actor and informant in shaping strategies and determining a higher level of matching between needs and responses, is considered of primary importance to re-address practices and strengthen their protective functions.

Using once more our gate metaphor, up to what extent the gate is open and inclusive to determine an adequate level of protection for migrant children coming to Europe? 

In order to answer this question the initiative tried to reconnect the issue of protection with those crucial factors which continue to shape migration as a sociological phenomenon and as a human experience, namely citizenship, recognition, poverty,  social exclusion. These are also core factors which surely influence the level of risk of separated children to trafficking and exploitation.

The problem of enhancing the capacities of the guardianship system and guardians against trafficking, according to this approach, is proportional to the willingness and the capacities of these institutions and actors to adopt this perspective. In fact the possibility for the guardian not to be conceived just in a role of mediation between the child and the institutions but as a person who stands on the side of the child and actively promotes his/her inclusion and rights in the protection system, is the necessary condition for an effective protection of migrant unaccompanied minors.

The research process implemented in Greece, Italy, Cyprus and the Netherlands attempted to verify the level of inclusion/exclusion of the various national welfare and protection systems, their appropriateness and effectiveness in responding to children needs and rights while analyzing the compliance of policies, strategies and actions with the principles and the provisions imposed by international human rights legislation. The research hypothesis considered attention to the above said aspects as essential to determine what a guardian should be and do in order to protect children from trafficking and exploitation.

This "simple" approach tried to overcome a limiting and restricted vision of trafficking by undertaking the "rear door". In attempting this, vulnerability was viewed as something pertaining not to some peculiar characteristics of an individual, but to the nature and quality of relations existing between the individual and the surrounding context.  It is this very context with its opportunities, or lack of opportunities, that will determine the possibility to translate into real and effective action the protection rights to which every child is entitled.

In fact an "healthy" and welcoming context should be considered the core dimension to protect children against trafficking and exploitation. Any other specific strategy to fight the criminal phenomena and tackle the risk factors should be based and related with  a systemic analysis aimed at identifying which are the conditions that make this phenomena possible.

Guardianship and guardians embody the core responsibilities in helping to keep the gate open and functioning. But any gate, to be solid and to function properly, should be conceived of as a mechanism composed by interconnected elements.  This materialistic image has the advantage to convey the idea that any protective strategy should rely on the system as a whole. Again, the positive/inclusive or negative/exclusive use of this gate depends very much on the capacity to understand how and when this gate should be open and when it should be closed.

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