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‘Migrants’ well-being at risk if sent back to Italy’

The European Court of Human Rights barred Switzerland on Tuesday from sending a family of Afghan migrants back to Italy, ruling their well-being could be at risk.

'Migrants' well-being at risk if sent back to Italy'
The ECHR barred Switzerland from deporting family of Afghan migrants to Italy, ruling their well-being could be at risk. ECHR photo: Shutterstock

Deporting the Tarakhel family, which includes six children, without first getting assurances from Italy they would be taken care of and kept together is a violation of Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, the court ruled.

The decision is final and can serve as a precedent for other migrants in a similar situation.

The court noted that the UN refugee agency had previously raised concerns over Italy's procedures for caring for refugees.

"The possibility that a significant number of asylum seekers may be left without accommodation or accommodated in overcrowded facilities without any privacy, or even in insalubrious or violent conditions, cannot be dismissed as unfounded," the court ruled.

Italy has seen a massive rush of migrants over the past year trying to reach the country in highly dangerous sea voyages. Authorities have rescued over 150,000 migrants since two deadly shipwrecks in October 2013 killed 400 people.

The Tarakhel family was to be deported to Italy, where they had landed in July 2011, under the EU rule referred to as the Dublin Regulation. The regulation says asylum seekers like the Tarakhels must have their case judged in the European country where they first landed.

After landing in Italy the Tarakhels went to Austria to apply for asylum, but it was rejected and referred to Italian authorities. The family then headed for Switzerland where they lodged a new asylum request in November 2011.

Swiss officials decided to simply pass the family's asylum application to Italy. Despite their case being passed to Italy, the family and its six children, the youngest of which was born in 2012, continue to live in the Swiss city of Lausanne.

German European Deputy Ska Keller noted the court raises the question of whether Italy has the capacity to handle other countries' migrants.

"The ruling shows the 'Dublin Regulation' is not working at all anymore. It is time to replace it with a reasonable system," instead of "holding to a system that discharges on the southern countries of the EU all responsibility for refugees," Keller said in a statement.

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MONEY

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”

READ ALSO:

The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.

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