Unaccompanied immigrant children in Italy have left their countries hoping to find a job and better opportunities, but their aspirations quickly fade away. Often, they risk being exploited to work in the black labour market or are recruited by criminal gangs – with nobody standing up to protect them.
When Ahmed sailed away from Misrata’s dock, he didn’t look back. There was nobody to say goodbye to. His mother was in Ghana, his sister in Nigeria, his older brother in Germany. His father had disappeared long before. Ahmed was the youngest sibling in his family and he had just turned 15 when he had to leave his home to go and look for a job. As soon as he finished his studies in Ghana, off he went. He crossed Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Algeria before reaching Libya. Gaddafi’s Libya. Ahmed recalls those times with a smile.
“It’s true that there was no freedom, but there were jobs,” he says. “I found a job in a construction site in a town near Tripoli and I was working there every day. It was great. Then, the war began…” His smile fades away. “In May I could not stay there anymore. I used all the money I had been saving to pay the trip to flee Libya. It took us five days at sea before landing in Lampedusa. There were hundreds of migrants in the island, and the reception centres were so overcrowded that we had to sleep outside, in the street. After two weeks, I was on a boat again.”