26 July 2023 - Italy

Italy: Many children of migrant farm workers live hidden from sight and isolated from schools

Children in italy

Photo by Wendy Elliott/Save the Children

  • Ahead of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (Sunday 30 July), Save the Children releases the 13th edition of its report on child trafficking and exploitation.
  • The report  focuses on the children of parents in agricultural work in the Latina and Ragusa provinces in Italy
  • Many of these children face major barriers to accessing school and healthcare, leaving them neglected and uneducated

ROME, 26 July 2023 – Many children of migrant parents working in Italy’s agriculture industry are hidden from government services and missing out on essential schooling and healthcare, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, Save the Children said today.

Save the Children’s 13th edition of an annual report on child trafficking and exploitation focused on a dimension of exploitation often overlooked – the lives of children of labourers. It focused on two provinces with a strong agriculture sector – Latina and Ragusa – and found many children were living in isolation, often in makeshift lodgings deep within farmland.

Many of these children live separated from urban areas and from each other, without common spaces in which to play, without sport activities or social centres, often in unhealthy and crowded housing conditions, sharing with two or three other families.

The report, released in the lead up to World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July, also highlighted how social exclusion is rooted from birth: the absence of nearby kindergartens, combined with the lack of means to reach those in the nearest town, force many small children to stay alone indoors or following their parents to work.

In 2021, there were around 230,000[1] irregular workers in the agricultural sector in Italy, with a massive presence of non-resident foreigners and a large number of women (55,000). Foreign workers are present in greater numbers in provinces like Latina and Ragusa, where the lands require intensive cultivation and manual labour to collect and package agricultural products. In Ragusa province, nearly half of all agricultural workers are migrants.

Many children who do manage to enroll in primary school drop out as early as 12 or 13 years of age to join the informal workforce. Some children interviewed for the report said they engaged in dangerous work such as spraying pesticides without protection from the age of 12-13.

The report, also details the wider issue of trafficking and exploitation in Italy, where about 757 victims of trafficking and exploitation were identified in 2021. Over a third of all cases were children (35%), with girls more likely to be victims than boys (168 to 96 cases). In 2022, more than 800 adults and children were added to the anti-trafficking national system.

Raffaela Milano, Director of Save the Children's Italy-Europe Programmes, said:

“We wanted to give a voice to children and adolescents who live every day in the shadows, suffering very serious violations in their access to health and education. This report tells us that workers exploited in agriculture, in addition to being direct victims of this condition, are also parents, mothers and fathers of "invisible" children who grow up in our country without essential rights. This serious dimension of exploitation has too often been ignored up to now.

“It is essential to recognise the existence of these children, to ensure that each of them has registered residence, enrolment in the health service and school and the support services essential for growth.”

Save the Children is calling on the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies in Italy to use its Three-Year Plan to combat labour exploitation in agriculture and illegal hiring with a specific programme for the emergence and care of the children of agricultural workers.

In 2022 Save the Children launched the "Free from Invisibility" project in the territories of Vittoria and Marina di Acate, in the Ragusa province, supporting girls and boys aged 6 to 17, and to young people up to 21 years of age. The organisation runs activities aimed at psycho-social well-being and growth opportunities, such as street art workshops, photo-reportage, study support, as well as support in enrolment and school management.

Save the Children has also created the “Centro Famiglie Orizzonti a Colori” in Marina di Acate for families with girls and boys aged up to six, which provides legal and administrative support for registration procedures, as well as health orientation services and pediatric consultancy.


[1] VI Rapporto su agromafie e caporalato dell’Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto della CGIL  https://www.fondazionerizzotto.it/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Sintesi-VI-Rapporto_301122.pdf

You will be able to find the full report in Italian at 05:30am BST on Wednesday 26 July here.


Please also check our Twitter account @Save_GlobalNews for news alerts, quotes, statements and location Vlogs.


[1] VI Rapporto su agromafie e caporalato dell’Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto della CGIL  https://www.fondazionerizzotto.it/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Sintesi-VI-Rapporto_301122.pdf


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