(Milan) – Children as young as 12 and traveling without family members are kept for weeks in overcrowded and unsafe conditions in the Pozzallo migrant registration center in Sicily, Human Rights Watch said today. Some asylum-seeking and other migrant children stay for over one month with unrelated adults in the center, designed for short-term stays, due to lack of space in shelters for children, putting them at risk of sexual abuse and violence from adults.
Members of a parliamentary commission of inquiry on reception and detention facilities is conducting a long-planned visit to the Pozzallo center on June 23, 2016. As of June 21, all but 60 people had been transferred out of the center.
“Pozzallo is no place for a child, much less for extended periods of time,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It is unacceptable that young, vulnerable children without family members remain there for weeks, while adults are normally transferred within three days.”
On June 9, the day of Human Rights Watch’s visit, the Pozzallo center held 365 people, over double its capacity, of whom 185 were unaccompanied children, according to police. A significant number of the unaccompanied children had been at the center for two weeks. As of June 17, around 100 unaccompanied children were in the center, including some who had been there since May 28.