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Latest update : 2009-04-06

Rome's residents were stunned to learn that 24 minors had been discovered living in one of the city's rail stations, with officials calling for an improved social safety net, according to media reports.

AFP - The discovery of 24 unaccompanied minors holed up below a Rome rail station has left city officials scurrying to reinforce the Italian capital's social safety net, press reports said Sunday.
"Some situations are a disgrace to the city," Rome's right-wing Mayor Gianni Alemanno admitted in televised remarks on Saturday, announcing a plan for a permanent task force to "prevent (immigrant) children from being abandoned."
City officials were quick to discount initial reports that the minors were found in the sewers running below the railway station near Rome's Colosseum.
"They didn't sleep in the sewers but in spaces under the platforms," said Social Services Councillor Sveva Belviso, adding that some of the migrants' meagre belongings were stowed in sewer pipes.
They were also older than initially reported, aged from 15 to 17 instead of 10 to 15, officials said.
The city will set up information points to help migrants find food and shelter as well as legal aid, and leaflets will be produced in the Afghan and Kurdish languages, Belviso said.
News reports Sunday said the teenagers' handlers had been paid up to 10,000 dollars (7,400 euros) to get them as far as Italy, where they had arrived via Turkey and Greece with northern Europe thought to be their ultimate destination.
Railway police discovered the teenagers along with 98 other people including other Afghans, reports said, adding that they were being cared for by the city's social services.
"I could never imagine facing such a shocking situation, and to think of what these kids have endured before arriving here," the head of Rome's railway security, Carlo Casini, was quoted as saying.
Mayor Alemanno came under harsh criticism from the centre-left opposition Democratic Party.
"Where does the mayor live?" asked Paola Masini, a party member who serves on the city council.
"He has completely lost touch with the reality of a city that sees an ever-widening social gap," Rome's Il Messagero daily quoted her as saying. "This is the result of the scant attention paid to the network of basic social services expected in a city such as Rome."
The Italian branch of the charity Save the Children said the number of Afghan minors arriving in the Italian capital rose steadily from 32 in 2004 to 264 in 2007.
More than 1,000 foreign minors wound up in Rome in 2007 out of a total of nearly 8,000 in Italy, the group said on its website.

Date created : 2009-04-05