Human rights groups in Italy have warned that thousands of unaccompanied migrant children are at risk of falling back into the hands of smugglers or being exploited to work long hours for little pay, despite legislation aimed at protecting them.

“They [the children] are the most vulnerable elements of this big phenomenon called migration,” said Kostas Moschochoritis, head of humanitarian group Intersos, which operates the shelter for unaccompanied minors in Rome.

The shelter has hosted 4,0...

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