Sheltering child refugees in Sicily

Terre des Hommes and the municipality of Syracuse cooperate in the care of child refugees arriving in Sicily after a journey across the Mediterranean Sea. Terre des Hommes has provided psychosocial support to children through the FARO program for four years. In 2014 alone, 7,800 children have arrived on the island, over 3,500 of them without guidance from parents or relatives. These numbers have risen sharply throughout 2015.


Most refugees arrive after being rescued by the Italian coastguard. After the so-called Lampedusa tragedy in October 2013, Italy started the Mare Nostrum operation. Three times a week, Italian naval vessels arrive at the port of Syracuse in Sicily to bring refugees to land which have been picked up at sea. Each time an average of eight hundred refugees are brought ashore. In 2014, the European Union took over this surveillance, deploying a considerably lower capacity, while the number of boat people actually increased. As a result, hundreds of refugees have drowned (1.800 official casualties so far).

The FARO project

Terre des Hommes Netherlands is responsible for part of the financing of the FARO project, which is financed by all sister organisations, through the Terre des Hommes International Federation. Terre des Hommes works in the port of Augusta and two transit centers for unaccompanied children (arriving without parents or close relatives) on a daily basis. In addition, Terre des Hommes supports families with minor children. The Faro program aims at complementing the duties of local and national authorities with adequate services and psychosocial support for child refugees. With this field work, Terre des Hommes draws attention to the phenomenon of child refugees and their right to protection.

Psychosocial support

Terre des Hommes offers psychosocial and psychological support to children and their mothers in het Centre for First Reception for Unaccompanied Minors Papa Francesco Priolo Gargallo in Syracuse. These activities will be extended to Lampedusa as soon as the Centre for First Aid and Home (CPSA) will be reopened, presumably by the end of 2014.


Since January 2014, 5,293 children have arrived in Syracuse, Sicily including 3,038 unaccompanied children. These numbers represent one fifth of all migrants arriving in Italy. An influx of refugees of this magnitude is a big burden on the local community. For the sheltering process to run smoothly, a specialist approach is required. The absence of adequate assistance and legal protection makes unaccompanied children extremely vulnerable to traffickers and organised crime. To prevent this, Terre des Hommes aimed at protecting the child refugees. In March 2014, Terre des Hommes launched the fourth phase of the Faro project. In this phase, the psychosocial and psychological assistance to children was extended. At the same time we have drawn up a guide with guidelines for social workers dealing with the protection of these children.

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