Ousainou Joof, who fled from Gambia | Photo: Cecilia Ferrara and Angela Gennaro /ANSA

A Gambian was among youngsters being held in detention and charged as smugglers upon their arrival in Italy, reports Infomigrants.

These youngsters have been described as little more than children but incarcerated and tried like adults. Ousainou Joof was born in Barra in 1999 and described himself as a boy on the run, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

According to ANSA, Ousainou was 15 when he boarded a ramshackle dinghy in Zuwara, Libya.

“He was the youngest on board and during the trip he became sea-sick to the point that he was immediately hospitalized once he reached Italy,” added ANSA.

However according to the news agency, Joof’s travelling companions said he was the one steering the little dinghy. He was said to be under 16 but doctors concluded that he was 18 through an X-ray of his wrist.

“And for that reason, he was taken into custody in the Pagliarelli jail in Palermo. He stayed there for almost a year,” revealed ANSA.

His case is an indication of how unaccompanied minors are ending up in Italian jails, tried as adults and accused of aiding illegal migration.

Infomigrant.net quoted Richard Brodie from the association Arci Porco Rosso as saying that a 2021 report From Sea to Prison, commissioned by organization Alarm Phone, which monitors migrants crossings of the Mediterranean in conjunction with association Arci Porco Rosso in Palermo, showed that at least 2,500 migrants have been arrested on human trafficking charges during summary legal proceedings.