Migration policies in Portugal and Italy: social work and ways of integrating unaccompanied minors.

Start and End of the Project
2018 - 2020

Principal Investigator
Professor Maria Irene Carvalho


Research Team

 Isabella Paoletti
Research Center of Social Intervention
 Maria Irene Carvalho
CAPP/ISCSP, Universidade de Lisboa
 Helena Teles
ISCSP, Universidade de Lisboa
 Carla Ribeirinho
Centro de Estudos da População, Economia e Sociedade



 Conselho Português para os Refugiados Portugal
 CRIS - Centro de Ricerca e Intervento Sociale Itália
 Research Center of Social Intervention  



Refugees around the world constitute a major challenge for governments, in particular, unaccompanied minors and separated children. These risk group needs special protection. Unaccompanied minors are children and teenagers generally under 18 years of age who do not have the support of at least one adult with parental authority (EUROSTAT, 2018).  In Europe, in 2017, there were 31800 asylum applications of unaccompanied minors (EUROSTAT 2018).  Recent studies are describing the experience and difficulties involved in growing up as a displaced, unaccompanied child (Bryan & Denov 2011; Curtis et al. 2018).

This project analyses some of the main policies, relevant for social work intervention, in Portugal and Italy, for the protection of refugees, with particular attention to unaccompanied minors. It outlines the paths of integration in the two countries and the role of social workers in this process. The project critically discusses the pathways to inclusion, services and resources, activated in the two countries to protect children rights and to promote their best interests.

In particular the study problematizes the institutional migration apparatus (Dahinden 2016) based on ethnic categorization processes.  Recent studies (Bowen & Kalir 2013) are questioning ethnic categorizing as static. Dahinden (2016) propose to ‘de-migranticize' migration and integration research.   Drawing on the ethnomethodological literature on membership categorization analysis (Sacks 1992) and ethnic identity work (Day 1998; Moermann 1988), policies texts are examined in order to problematize categorization work and its influence in producing the institutional migration apparatus. The idea is to understand to what extent policies and profession intervention are shaped by ethnic concepts.