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F. Education, leisure and cultural activities (arts. 28, 29 and 31 of the Convention)
Education, including vocational training and guidance
59. While recognizing efforts to implement its previous recommendations (CRC/C/15/Add.198, para. 43), the Committee is concerned at the following:
(a) Continuing high school drop-out rates, especially in the south and among children from families in socio-economic difficulties,
(b) The poor conditions of school buildings and facilities, which on occasion have led to accidental deaths due to a lack of safety;
(c) The prevalence of violence and bullying in schools, dealt with primarily through disciplinary rather than psychosocial and educational measures, and the low rates of complaints reported by victims;
(d) The lack of homogeneity among the regions and the delay in passing legislation postponing access to vocational training;
(e) The failure to fully integrate foreign children and children belonging to minorities into the school system;
(f) That children do not participate in or are not consulted to any great extent with regard to decision-making processes of concern to them in the education system.
60. Additionally, the Committee is concerned at the suspension of Legislative Decree No. 226 (2005) regulating the essential levels of service in education and vocational training that regions are required to guarantee, and that no standardized nationwide framework for measures to bolster education is in place. The Committee notes with concern the significant cuts in public funding to the education sector following the 2009 school reform, including a considerable downsizing in the number of teachers, whereas funding for private schools has doubled during the past decade. The Committee also notes the diversification of funding sources for education, including from the European Union and local foundations.
61. The Committee strongly recommends that the State party:
(a) Refrain from further budget cuts in the education sector, and ensure that schools are provided with adequate human, technical and financial resources to provide quality education for all children;
(b) Introduce educational support mechanisms for children from economically disadvantaged families;
(c) Effectively address violence and bullying in schools through socio-educational measures such as counselling, awareness-raising regarding school rules and the Student Statute, forums for dialogue and access for children to report such incidents, rather than by limiting action to disciplinary and punitive measures;
(d) Pass into law Legislative Decree No. 81/2008 on workplace safety in relation to schools;
(e) Take action to pass legislation on access to vocational training;
(f) Develop programmes to improve the integration of foreigners and minority children in schools.
G. Special protection measures (arts. 22, 30, 38, 39, 40, 37 (b)-(d), 32-36 of the Convention)
Children in migration situations
62. The Committee recognizes the particular geographic location of the State party and the constraints inherent therein and appreciates the efforts and measures that, in a situation of emergency and without any kind of assistance, the State party has recently had to adopt and implement in order to face the unexpected and unprecedented arrival of thousands of refugees fleeing wars, political disruptions and poverty in their countries of origin. However, the Committee remains concerned that this situation is harmful to children, whether they are refugees, unaccompanied minors or migrants, in view of the rights to which they are entitled under the Convention.
Asylum-seeking and refugee children
63. The Committee welcomes the prohibition to expel or return persons under the age of 18 years and pregnant women under the immigration laws of the State party. It notes with concern, however, that children of foreign origin can be expelled from the country for reasons of public order and State security and that the State party, in implementing the 2009 interception policy of migrants (“push-back” policy), has returned children, including unaccompanied children, without examining the individual circumstances of each child or providing each child with a possibility to request asylum. The Committee is deeply concerned that some of the migrants pushed back have been identified as requiring international protection, in violation of the State party’s non-refoulement obligations. It is further of serious concern to the Committee that the State party has detained children with their families when forcibly returning migrants, without the possibility to seek asylum.
64. While noting Legislative Decree 25/2008, the Committee is concerned that the State party lacks a framework law on political asylum. It is concerned at the limited capacity and availability, overcrowding, and very poor conditions of reception centres for children, resulting in the placement of children in reception centres not intended for persons under 18. It notes with particular concern reports of substandard reception and living conditions for migrants, especially children, who arrived in Lampedusa and other locations during the spring and summer of 2011.
65. In the light of the above, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that each child under its jurisdiction, whether on the high seas or on its territory, who seeks to enter Italy has the right to an individual examination of his or her circumstances and to be provided with prompt access to asylum procedures and other relevant national and international protection procedures;
(b) Review domestic law and ensure that it prohibits the expulsion of persons under the age of 18, even for reasons of public order and State security, where there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk of irreparable harm to the child;
(c) Put in place without delay an effective data collection and information storage system with respect to all children, including asylum-seeking and refugee children, with protection needs;
(d) Draw upon the Committee’s general comment No. 6 (2005) on treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin in the implementation of the above recommendations.
66. The Committee is concerned at the lack of a holistic and common approach in the State party with respect to unaccompanied children, including the absence of comprehensive guidelines and legal framework on unaccompanied children. It is concerned that existing legal protection and procedures for appointing guardians and issuing residence permits for unaccompanied children are unevenly applied across regions of the State party. The Committee notes the efforts by the Committee for Foreign Minors to improve the conditions for minors temporarily hosted in Italy, but notes that the Committee’s competence is limited to children who do not apply for asylum. It is a matter of concern also that a medical approach is increasingly used to determine the age of unaccompanied children, which jeopardizes in practice the application of the principle of the benefit of the doubt.
67. The Committee recommends that the State party introduce comprehensive legislation ensuring the assistance and protection of unaccompanied children, drawing upon the principles set out in general comment No. 6. In particular, the Committee recommends that the State party establish a specific and permanent national authority to oversee the condition of unaccompanied children, identify their needs and address challenges in the current system, and to develop operational guidelines on unaccompanied children, including on reception, identification, needs assessment and protection strategy. The Committee recommends that the State party adopt a unified age-assessment procedure for unaccompanied children that is multidisciplinary and fully upholds the principle of the benefit of the doubt.
Children of migrant families
68. The Committee expresses deep concern at restrictions in terms of access to health care, education and other social services for children of irregular migrants, noting that families without a residence permit have no right to social services. It is particularly concerned in this regard at the promulgation of Act No. 94/2009 on public security, which criminalizes undocumented entry and stay in Italy and which has a serious negative impact on the enjoyment of economic and social rights of children and families not legally resident in the State party. The Committee, noting the significant increase in the number of children of migrant families in the State party, further regrets that financing for the Fund for the Social Inclusion of Immigrants was cut in 2008 and 2009. The Committee also notes with serious concern reports that children of families not legally resident in the State party may be held in identification and expulsion centres and that domestic law does not regulate the presence of children in such centres.
69. The Committee reminds the State party that the rights stipulated in the Convention should not be limited to children who are citizens of a State party but must extend to all children irrespective of their immigration status, and recommends that the State party:
(a) Review the Immigration Act with a view to ensure migrant children equal rights to education, health and other social services, in line with the Constitutional Court ruling of July 2010;
(b) Ensure in law and practice that the best interests of the child will always be of paramount consideration in deciding on residence permits for foreigners.
Children in armed conflict
70. The Committee is concerned that the State party has not implemented its previous recommendations: (a) to expressly criminalize in domestic legislation the recruitment and use in hostilities of persons under the age of 15 by the armed forces and armed groups (CRC/C/OPAC/ITA/CO/1, para. 12); and (b) to define “direct participation” in domestic legislation (CRC/C/OPAC/ITA/CO/1, para. 11), in line with articles 1 to 4 of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
71. While appreciating its alignment with article 29 of the Convention, the Committee regrets that the curriculum of the four military schools operating in the State party does not specifically include teaching on human rights, the Convention and the Optional Protocol. The Committee further regrets that its previous recommendation to introduce into domestic legislation the prohibition and criminalization of the sale of small arms and light weapons to countries where children are involved in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/ITA/CO/1, para. 17) has not been implemented by the State party. The Committee also regrets the lack of information in the State party report on rehabilitation and social reintegration of child victims of the crimes in the Optional Protocol.
72. The Committee, recalling its earlier recommendations, urges the State party to intensify its efforts to implement the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and:
(a) Amend its declaration under the Optional Protocol on the minimum age for recruitment to conform with national legislation of a minimum age of 18 years;
(b) To amend the Criminal Code to expressly prohibit and criminalize the recruitment and use in hostilities of persons under the age of 18 by the armed forces and armed groups;
(c) To prohibit and criminalize in domestic legislation the sale of small arms and light weapons to countries where children are involved in armed conflict;
(d) To include the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict as a ground for refugee status in domestic legislation;
(e) To ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
73. The Committee welcomes the creation of the Observatory for the Fight against Paedophilia and Child Pornography, the National Centre for Combating Child Pornography on the Internet, and the Observatory on Prostitution and Related Crimes, and notes as positive the adoption of Act No. 11/2009, which makes sexual acts perpetrated against children an aggravating circumstance. The Committee is concerned, however, at the lack of resources and a plan to coordinate and fund their activities. In this regard, and noting the increase of street prostitution in major cities in the State party, the limited data on and activities focusing on eliminating child prostitution is of considerable concern to the Committee. While further noting as positive the strengthening of domestic legislation against sexual exploitation, child pornography and child prostitution (Act No. 38/2006), the Committee regrets that it still does not define child pornography as required under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
74. The Committee is concerned that funding for the implementation of the Optional Protocol has been reduced by half since 2000, and that the focus is primarily on trafficking. The Committee is further concerned at the limited number of programmes aimed at the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation of particularly vulnerable groups of children, and at difficulties in the identification of victims of child pornography and child prostitution.
75. The Committee strongly recommends that the State party:
(a) Fully harmonize national legislation with the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, in particular by introducing a definition of child pornography into its Criminal Code;
(b) Develop and implement a strategy for the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, focusing on vulnerable groups of children, including Roma children;
(c) Identify and protect victims, including by providing specialist training for and enhanced resources to the Specialist Unit for the Analysis of Child Pornographic Material;
(d) Ensure the effective functioning of the Observatory for the Fight against Paedophilia and Child Pornography, including appointing its members, and operationalize the database to monitor this crime;
(e) Reinstitute the Observatory on Prostitution and Related Crimes or entrust its mandate and activities to an existing body, with a view to ensure monitoring of child prostitution and abuse.
Administration of juvenile justice
76. The Committee notes as positive the emphasis on alternative measures and reintegration in the juvenile justice system of the State party. The Committee is nevertheless concerned that the bill on the juvenile prison system aimed at further diversifying the response by the juvenile justice system has not been adopted yet, and at financial cuts threatening the current system. In this regard, the Committee is concerned at reports on the excessive use of detention, at prolonged pretrial detention of children and at inadequate access to education and training for children deprived of their liberty in juvenile correctional institutions (IPMs).
77. The Committee expresses deep concern over reports that foreign children have been placed in juvenile correctional institutions and reception centers solely because they lack documents. The increase in the number of foreign and Roma children stopped by judicial authorities during the reporting period is a further matter of concern, as is the observation that such children, as compared to Italian children, benefit to a much lesser extent from diversion and other alternative measures provided for by the law.
78. The Committee recommends that the State party bring its juvenile justice system fully into line with the Convention, in particular articles 37, 39 and 40, and with other relevant standards, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the Beijing Rules), the United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (the Riyadh Guidelines), the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (the Havana Rules), the Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System; and the Committee’s general comment No. 10 (2007) on the rights of the child in juvenile justice. In particular, the Committee urges the State party to: