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What did you do when you were eighteen, all the time was yours and you had your life ahead of you? What was your time frame for making plans? Most of them, at most, from one exam to the next, from English class to football training, or from the university entrance exam to the end of the year trip (in those pre-covid days that now seem so far away).

You were lucky to have that space to dream, to project yourself into a future in which you were the protagonist and actor.

Bilal, however, has spent a year and six months waiting. Yes, waiting and nothing more. Waiting for the centre where he was under guardianship to apply for a residence permit. Waiting for the processing of a document that arrived late and out of date, once he had come of age. Waiting for a rectification of his expired documentation by the immigration office, waiting for a registration certificate, waiting to put fingerprints for his residence permit, waiting to pick up a TIE (Identification card for foreigners) that seemed would never arrive.

And finally, waiting in line for a boat to Malaga.

A journey of waiting, which begins before boarding, and passes through the hands of a police officer at a documents checkpoint. This person is unaware of the amount of time Bilal has waited before he was able to get in front of him and waits again, five minutes that take forever, at the end of which he tells him: "You can't go through". Bilal asks why, when he finally has all his papers in order. The reason is that the medical appointment justifying his trip to Malaga does not seem sufficiently credible to this officer, despite the fact that none of the 200 people with Spanish ID cards waiting in the same queue had to go through this very scrupulous filter.

In the end, Bilal was able to travel, but it was not easy. It was not only the two-hour wait for the police to check all his documents thoroughly. The whole wait has been a very difficult time for a young man of eighteen who wants to start living outside the prison that Melilla is for him.

Bilial will surely never see travelling with the same eyes as anyone his age would, it will be something in his backpack that will take up space forever.

But in Melilla, sometimes, there are also reasons to celebrate, and to think that this wait, although unfair, has served a purpose. And it has been accompanied by a lot of work and effort dedicated to ensuring respect for the rights that any person has simply because they have been under guardianship in Spain.

This is a battle that has been won, but many others are still on standby. Many people are still waiting their turn in the queue. Their turn to get that ticket to a future they deserve to create.

Today we are happy for Bilal, and renewed with strength and optimism so that many more can finally stop waiting.



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