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A new study, Youth on the move: Investigating decision-making, migration trajectories and expectations of young people on the way to Italy, has been released – shedding light on what motivates young people to move from Africa to Italy.

The study was carried out by the Mixed Migration Hub and investigated why young people decided to travel and how prepared they were to do so, what influenced the routes and destinations they chose, and how they expected their journey and arrival in Europe to be. The assessment interviewed 81 respondents originally from West Africa, East Africa and the Middle East between the ages of 15 and 24, who arrived in Italy after March 2016.

The report found that political and security issues, often linked with economic worries, were the most common reasons which convinced young people to migrate. Unless this choice was triggered by fast-moving events, young people tended to leave before turning 18 to pursue their aspirations as part of a transition to adulthood.

The study’s findings show that how prepared young people are for the journey varies. Most young people who decided to move chose their destinations after gathering information about the country and how to reach it. However, the information they gathered was not detailed or fully representative of the difficulties they could meet along the way.

The migration ‘industry’ differs greatly across the various regions of origin, according to the report. In West Africa, a greater number of stakeholders play roles in the migration process. Drivers, labour recruiters, housing providers, smugglers and other people offer a variety of services within specific locations.

Young people’s journey from East Africa seems to be more organised, with smugglers taking care of transportation, accommodation (usually in warehouses) and providing food to their clients.

The report recommends governments both in affected countries and across the world need to address the root causes which lead children and young people to leave home. The practice of detaining children because of their migration status, whether in countries of origin, transit or destination must also be eliminated, with alternatives to this method developed and implemented as quickly as possible.

Finally, governments in countries where children and young people on the move originate, travel through and finally settle must provide genuine protection from trafficking and exploitation, and treat children as the children they are – not as ‘migrants’, ‘refugees’ or any other label.

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