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The Invisibles: The case of underage migrants in Rome

Underage migrants are forced to live in holes, prostitute themselves and sell drugs to survive in Rome

An ongoing reportage is unveiling a gruesome reality about the underaged migrants who flee their home countries to reach Europe. While many of them transit Italy and continue their journey toward Northern Europe, some of them remain in big cities like Rome and Milan where they become vulnerable victims of human trafficking and exploitation.

Termini station, in Rome, is at the crossroads of millions of people every year but, for some young migrants, it has become the ending point of a trip and the beginning of a life far from what they expected to find in Europe.

On February 17, a reportage published on the Italian weekly magazine Espresso with the support of Unicef Italy, uncovered a group of young migrants, mostly Egyptians, forced by circumstances to live in holes in the ground, sell drugs and prostitute themselves for food and money. Mostly under 18, these teenagers stroll outside Termini station where pedophiles know where to find them. Just a nod of the head by the men and the teenagers will follow them into alleys and cheap hotels nearby where they will sell their bodies for as low as 10 euros.

“They are the invisible ones,” said Floriana Bulfon, the freelance journalist who went undercover for weeks to report on this situation. “Pedophiles know where to find available children. By word of mouth, men arrive from outside Rome, even from the North knowing they will find them just outside Termini Station.” After the main reportage, Floriana published two other articles for the Espresso: one about the young Italians women who accompany the Egyptians and one on the developments of these migrants’ situation after her first report.

On a recent piece from Al-Jazeera English, produced by a Raw-News team, we discovered that these young boys mostly arrived unaccompanied, together with other hundreds of migrants on boats through the Mediterranean. Their parents paid thousands of dollars for a ticket to Europe, hoping their children would get a better life than theirs. Instead, these kids found themselves alone in a silent hell and with no skills, little Italian and with thousands of dollars to pay back to the smugglers. Despite their young age, the kids feel deeply responsible for their parents’ debt. The pressure to pay it off is so strong that they would do simply anything to send some money back home.

Even though Floriana’s report, Al-Jazeera and other networks piece brought the problem to the international attention and the local administration, the young Egyptians’ reality in Rome is just a drop in a bigger sea of a migration crisis that has led half a million people to flee, for economic or humanitarian reasons, their homes, their life.


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