The latest data estimates that around half of all refugeesÂ worldwide are under 18 years old. In 2015, nearlyÂ 100,000 children who lodged an asylum request were unaccompanied, meaning they wereÂ not assisted or represented by their parents or any other adult.Â In Italy, according to the UNHCR, the number of unaccompanied children has risenÂ significantly in 2016, and now makes up 15 percent of all arrivals.Â
The Italian reception system has proved inadequate in protecting loneÂ refugee and migrant children and their rights. During the first six months ofÂ 2016, 5,222 unaccompanied children were reported missing, having run away from receptionÂ centres. They have become invisible, under the legal radar and are therefore even moreÂ vulnerable to violence and exploitation.