Ragazzi Harraga: Social inclusion processes for unaccompanied migrant minors in the City of Palermo

Practice Aim

To strengthen, test and evaluate innovative pathways to sustain unaccompanied minors’ transition to adulthood, by offering them a series of educational experiences such as training opportunities and work placement, as well as independent housing solutions.

Target Groups

Unaccompanied Children minors and migrant young adults.

Simona Molteni: non6solo@ciai.it

‘Ragazzi Harraga’ is a project implemented by CIAI Onlus, Assessorato alla Cittadinanza Sociale del Comune di Palermo, Associazione Santa Chiara, CESIE, Cooperativa Libera…mente, CPIA 1 Palermo, Libera Palermo, Nottedoro, Send. CIAI – Centro Italiano Aiuti all’Infanzia operates in Sicily along with a network of eight partners to enhance and strengthen the system of protection for minors already active in the territory and guarantee 400 young migrants the services and tools necessary to be active actors of Italian society.
The project is funded through “Never Alone, per un domani possibile” – an Italian initiative, which aims at promoting both the autonomy and inclusion of young migrants respecting children’s rights and with the purpose of creating a new culture of reception.


The aim of the project is to strengthen, test and evaluate innovative pathways to sustain unaccompanied minors’ transition to adulthood, by offering them a series of educational experiences such as training opportunities and work placement, as well as independent housing solutions. The innovative project uses a more ‘local inclusion-oriented approach’ instead of the one based on ‘material wellbeing of migrants’.

Ragazzi Harraga is the result of the alliance of public and private actors which intends to promote pathways towards the autonomy of unaccompanied migrants living in the city of Palermo.
The project promotes a model of social inclusion that takes into account the potential, the interests and the expectations of single migrant children, based on two pillars:

I. The promotion of a network of actors involved in the realization of individual paths so as to allow them to share information, methods and tools.
II. The definition of individual paths of inclusion that enhance the resources and skills of migrant children who should be aware and responsible for that.

Today the heritage of ‘Ragazzi Harraga’ lives on the actions developed through the SAAMA project.

Target VG and type of host community

Unaccompanied minors and migrant young adults

Application setting: context

The number of unaccompanied minors hosted in various Italian regions has been growing over the past five years. The regions affected by the landings sustain the largest numbers of the population, specifically Sicily, with the city of Palermo and its provinces hosting 8.2% of the total population of unaccompanied minors (as of 31.08.2017). The main challenges that the model tackles are to strengthen the reception system for unaccompanied migrant minors, consolidating operational models that ensure respect for the rights of children and young people in Italy.
The Ragazzi Harraga model was built on a thorough analysis of the needs of the unaccompanied children and the weaknesses of the services provided. The holistic model of inclusion proposed aimed to take over the complexity of the process and tests innovative pathways towards autonomy, linking different actions and connecting all the social actors involved in the life of unaccompanied children. Specifically, it provided for a closer collaboration and co-creation amongst private and public sectors.


  • To improve the reception system of unaccompanied minors by promoting models ensuring the protection of children’s rights in Italy.
  • To promote models supporting social inclusion which take into account the potential, the interests and the expectations of unaccompanied minors, so as to facilitate an autonomous and responsible passage to adulthood by involving the Region of Sicily;
  • To create a social file for each minor featuring all the information concerning their identities, the reception procedures, the inclusion strategies and the hard, soft and life skills they have developed.
  • To give unaccompanied minors the opportunity to strengthen and develop soft and relational skills;
  • To develop an active policy for labour market integration of unaccompanied minors;
  • To identify temporary housing solutions featuring affordable accommodations for unaccompanied minors and a tourist hostel;
  • To design efficient tools in order to ensure the visibility and sustainability of the project.


  • Creating a platform which allows users to share, monitor and follow the inclusion strategies of unaccompanied minors living in Palermo.
  • Developing activities aimed at sharing methodologies and identifying tools so as to enhance and value the skills acquired by unaccompanied minors and improve the continuity of inclusion strategies;
  • Promoting activities aimed at enhancing active citizenship and including unaccompanied minors in the social and cultural life of Palermo (i.e. intercultural, theatre and multimedia workshops);
  • Creating and promoting the adoption of open source tools enabling a participatory mapping of the social and cultural organizations in Palermo;
  • Informing, describing, and supporting unaccompanied minors in order to promote active labour market policies;
  • Supporting vocational counselling services so as to identify professional skills and collect vacancies from hosting businesses;
  • Redecorating and adapting buildings to host unaccompanied minors and guests;
  • Assisting and helping institutional care leavers and providing them with autonomous and affordable housing solutions;
  • Managing a tourist hostel in collaboration with unaccompanied minors;
  • Sensitising and raising awareness of the project in order to promote and enhance its scope.


Between 2017 and 2019, 400 single migrant boys and girls participated in the following activities:

  • 3 cycles of 4 up-skilling workshops involving 240 boys and girls on the themes of interculturality and rights, using theatre, dance, video.
  • Created a platform containing the social folders with information on identity, reception, inclusion paths and skills acquired by the UAM involved;
  • 200 UAMs involved reinforced and developed transversal skills and relational skills: self-awareness, self-esteem, identification of their own skills and talents;
  • Developed an active policy for the inclusion of UAMs in the labour market: 75 internships carried out with 26 hiring in companies.
  • Housing solution for young adults, made sustainable by the activation of a guesthouse where young people from foreign countries welcome tourist and religious groups to this city, changing reception narratives.
  • Creation of a community “harraga” in which hundreds of minors and adults found an open space allowing them to meet, dialogue and take care of each other.

Difficulties or constrains for its implementation

Some youths didn’t finish the internship while sometimes the relationship between employer and young person didn’t work out. Sometimes expectations were different.
As far as schooling is concerned, on average they attended between 2 and 7 years of school in their country of origin, although the different configuration of school systems has to be taken into account. As a matter of facts when minors arrive they usually attend a literacy course and then manage to obtain a middle-school diploma thanks to the CPIA (Provincial Centre for Adult Education).


  • In order to develop of all the actions, partners made reference to a validation group, consisting of eight (8) unaccompanied minors, who were contacted at different stages of the project to give feedback on ideas, actions and strategies aimed at involving boys and girls of Palermo. Their feedbacks have allowed the partners to co-create activities that would provide an effective solution to the challenges they face themselves. As so, it is not a project created for the UAM but with them.
  • In order to carry out the workshops and job orientation activities, 18-21-year-old migrant boys and girls have been employed as linguistic and cultural facilitators and peer tutors; some of them have been selected among previous participants of “Ragazzi Harraga”, providing direct and indirect job opportunities throughout the implementation of the project.
  • A high number of extracurricular internships have turned to job contracts highlighting how those opportunities have been a key for UAMs and migrant adults to access the job market.
  • Another strength is the establishment of a network of partners, stakeholders, volunteers, volunteer guardians etc. who represent a strong social capital for these youngsters. These people have become a point of reference and stimulation towards UAM’s active role in the host community.


  • Having UAMs as the only target group has proven not to be an effective method to encourage the inclusion as a means of creating an intercultural environment, through the involvement of young local people.
  • Even if the involvement of local minors had been foreseen, the difficulty of reaching and attracting them was the main challenge as the project was promoted with a clear target group of unaccompanied minors and not just addressed to young people who want to get new experiences and develop their skills.
  • Another challenge has been the involvement of unaccompanied minor girls; even considering that their number is significantly inferior compared to the boys, there are many obstacles to reach them and enable their participation.
  • Despite the fact that UAMs feel they belong to the city, the lack of participation in public activities does not allow them to be known and interact with other aspects of the urban life, other than those they are involved in or are connected with the migration field.

Year and length (duration)

13/03/2017 – 13/09/2019

CRITERIA actors or stakeholder are using to assess them as a “good practice”

  • It proposes new tools to include young people with career guidance services. Individual skills and individual path are taken into account in order to allow the matching between job supply and demand;
  • it tackles the phenomenon of migration from a positive perspective in order to integrate young people into Italian society, considered them as a resource for the country. The project aims at triggering a cultural change: to look at migration not as an issue but as a resource;
  • the project proposes a model of social housing that combines reception and enhancement of the urban heritage of the city centre: the structure where the guesthouse was to be built was not fully used;
  • the renovation will be carried out according to the principles of environmental sustainability and energy saving;
  • local businesses are involved to facilitate the paths of inclusion at work and in society;
  • Ragazzi Harraga’s model is replicable since its processes and activities may be adapted to other contexts where UAMs live.