Financed by the Migration Policies Fund, in the framework of the project “Family Tracing Activities and  Assisted Voluntary Return for Unaccompanied Foreign Minors who are on the territory of the Italian State”.

Family Tracing

The identification of minor’s family members

The Ministryof Labour and Social Policies is responsible for the census of UMCs present in Italy through a dedicated data base. The Ministry promotes the identificationof UMC’s family members, it collects minor’s profiles and any request of the competent Italian social services, and forwards to IOM all the necessary information to trace a minor’s family.

Starting from March 2008 IOM has been carrying out family tracing in 47 countries, in any location where safety conditions are granted.



Family tracing and assessmentis carried out by IOM staff directly at minor’s family’s place of residence, and the interview is scheduled after a preliminary phone contact.

Family tracing is a cognitive and research tool that can be utilized to better:

  • understand a minor’s social and familiar context of origin, his/ her previous experiences(education, training, work) in order to provideusefulinsights to interact with the minor and to reflect onhis/ her personal growth and development;
  • outline ageneral assessment about available resourcesand opportunitiesin a minor’s contextof origin, in order to provide the necessary background information, in case the concerned minor would explicitly require to be reunited with the family andthe responsible authorities would consider such an option as the best one to fulfil minor’s best interest.

Once IOM staff in the country of origin has concluded the assessment report, this is translated and finalized by the IOM Mission in Rome; it is then sent to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, which in turn forward it to the local authorities that are in charge of the minor.

The final outcome of family tracing and assessment is an important asset that can significantly contribute to the definition of minor’s integration and reception path in Italy, as implemented by the competent social services.

Which are the necessary data to start the tracing activities?

The data needed to begin family tracing and assessment activities in the country of origin – or of residence – of the family is as follows:

  • Personal details of minor’s parents or legal guardians; preferably also those of the nuclear family;
  • The address and telephone number;
  • Other information which may be useful in tracing the family: the name of a school or a religious institution, or of a juvenile centre attended by the minor, minor’s parents’ work place, etc. ...);
  • Any other information related to the minor, about the reasons and conditions of his/her arrival in Italy, and about other potential needs or problems that require to be further analysed, discussed or verified with minor’s family.

The Italian social services can require IOM to focus as much as possible on some issues, by specifying in the minor’s profile or family tracing request any specificities about the child to be particularly highlighted and explored during the interview with the family.


The agreement betweenthe Ministryof Labour and Social Polies andIOM establishes that each family tracing shall be carried out in no longer than 28 natural days (to be counted fromthe official request by MoLSP). Such a time limit could be extended due to a sudden influx of tracing requests from a specific country; due to some difficulties that may arise; or if minor’s parents cannot be immediately reached or are unwilling to cooperate.

As a rule,priority is usually given to those family tracings whichare considered moreurgent, if the minor concerned is getting 18, or if he/she asked for assisted voluntary return, or because of particular cases of vulnerabilityor urgency, as reported by the competent social services.


1) Establishing the first contact with the family

The first telephone contact with minor’s family often represents a critical step for:

  • Overcoming any mistrusts;
  • Providing clear and effective information;
  • Explaining the purposes of the interview and the way it will be carried out;
  • Scheduling the meeting.

Several telephone contacts with the family may be necessary to build trust and to obtain the consent to interview the family.

The timing of this first stage may change depending on:

  • Minor and/or his/her family’s attitude;
  • Mobility/traceability of his/her family members.

Social services can certainly facilitate the first contact by explaining the purpose of the interview to the minor.

2) Visitand interviewwith the family

  • When it is possible,the interviewis conductedin collaboration withlocal social services(as in Kosovo and Moldova);
  • The interviewis based on asemi-structured questionnaire, which aims at exploring the following aspects:
  • Life conditionsand future perspectives(within the family environment and in the local social context);
  • Conditions and expectations of the minor before his/her departure;
  • Elaboration and development of themigration project;
  • Final remarks on the socio-economical context of origin of the minor and on sustainable reintegration opportunities.

Receiving from the Italian social services as much information as possible on minor’s current path in Italy is really important for IOM staff in order to:

  • Correctlyinformthe family about minor’s situation in Italy (integration path andpsychological state, problems, needsfor documents, etc…);
  • Further analyse the informationprovidedby the Italian social service(for instance, minor’s expectationsprior to her/his migration)

3) Methodology

To carry out family tracing interviews,IOMadoptsa qualitative methodology, which envisages field visits tothe familiesin their context of origin,and an analysis of thesocial and economic characteristicsof the local milieu, with particular attention to localresources and opportunities, and to possiblelimitations orrisk factors.

While contacting and interacting with minor’s family, IOM strictly applies internal principles and rules about transparency and data protection.

During the firsttelephone contact withthe family, IOMstaffprovidesall the information relatedto the project andthe purposes offamily tracing. The visitand the intervieware scheduledonly after minor’s family has explicitly agreed to the meeting.

At the very beginningof the family visit, interviewees are required to carefully read a written form about protection and treatment of sensitive data (as well as of photographs) and about the use of that information, as well as about data transmission to theMinistry of Labourand Social Policiesand the statistical analysisof the information so collected.

The interview can start only after the signature of the official consent form by minor’s relatives. IOMensure sensible data protection during the whole process of analysis and transfer to the competent authorities.

4) The contribution offamily tracing in defining the reintegration project:

By analysing the information gathered during the interview with minor’s family, a “snapshot” of the family environment and local context can be obtained, as well as a set of recommendations on sustainable reintegration opportunities (employment,trainingand/oreducation and medical support when needed).

Such informationcould be eventually updated or enhanced ifthe minor wouldtakeinto considerationthe possibility ofreturning home, after submitting a specific request to the local social services.