In the first five months of this year, more than 33.000 migrants made the perilous journey from the shores of North-Africa to Italy. Thousands have died in their attempt; in the last week of May alone, an estimated 1200 people drowned when their boats sank or capsized. Many of them must have been children, their stories remain untold. Others survived, either by reaching the shores on their own or -in most cases- because they were rescued by ships of the Italian coast guard, by ngo’s or by commercial vessels.
A growing number of the people crossing the Mediterranean are unaccompanied minors (UAM), children traveling without the guidance of their parents or other grown-ups. This year alone, at least 5300 UAM arrived in Italy, three times as many as the same period in 2015. Before they cross the sea, many already have been traveling for weeks or even months, passing time in countries such as Niger and war-torn Libya. An unknown number dies in the desert between those two countries and even after they have conquered the desert, they face hardship and often prison in Libya. The UAM who start their journey are mainly driven by despair: they flee war, conflict, hunger, drought. But all are bound by one thought; they somehow want to improve their lives and follow their dreams.
Save the Children helps them to find their way in Italy; it has three teams in Sicily alone that help children as soon they set foot on Italian soil by explaining them their rights. In the centres of First Reception, where the UAM are brought after they are registered, special teams from Save the Children guide the UAM in their first months in Europe. They help guide them through cultural differences and give legal advice wherever possible. After a few months, the UAM are brought to shelters run by the government, from where their integration starts. Save the Children has centers in Rome, Turin and Milan to support that integration process. One of those centers is the CivicoZero in Milan, run by Save the Children, a safe place where UAM can study Italian, get legal counsel, follow creative workshops, do sports and hang out with other UAM. In short, where they can catch their breath, find a warm and safe place and start working on the future, towards their dreams.
It is those dreams that inspired a series of photographs taken by the Dutch photographer and World Press Photo laureate Chris de Bode. Together with Save the Children he wanted to capture not the despair of the UAM that is usually shown on the newsreels, but rather their hopes, their strengths, their dreams.