THE DAY AFTER YOUR 18TH BIRTHDAY IN MELILLA IS THE DAY YOU START LIVING ON THE STREETS, AND LIVING ON THE STREETS MEANS BEING INVISIBLE.
Living on the streets is a lot more than not having a roof over one’s head. It means not having any privacy, being seen as a “public nuisance”, not having anywhere to rest and recuperate. It means lack of access to medical care. It means being deprived of the quiet and calm environment that recovery requires.
Living on the streets means resigning oneself to the fact that at any moment someone could take the few personal belongings you possess. And that there is nothing you can do about it.
Living on the streets means not having an address where official notices can reach you. The rights of those living on the streets, their right to undertake training, to carry out legal and administrative processes, or even to receive official information about things as important as the date of a hearing, disappear into an ever-growing black hole.
This is exactly what happened recently to a young migrant in Melilla: when Adil was a minor, he filed a complaint in court after he was violently robbed. The hearing was fixed for a few months later. By that time, Adil had turned eighteen, and so “no longer had the right” to live in a Centre for Minors. He was forced into living on the street. Adil was neither the accused nor a witness in this trial, he was the plaintiff. For this reason, the police protocol that summons individuals to court was not carried out, despite Adil being the victim of a crime, and he himself having filed the complaint. Because he was living on the streets, he lost his right to claim justice. Yet another right lost.
Living on the streets is much more than the loss of a fundamental right recognised by the Spanish Constitution. It means accepting the violation of many, many other fundamental rights, and “normalizing” this situation as if it were simply part of life.
This is daily life in Melilla. The day after young people turn 18, they are thrown out of the Centres for Minors where they had been living, under state protection. The Centres for Minors having failed to process their documentation, as the law requires, in order to allow them to travel to mainland Spain, and denied permission to enter “Plaza de Toros”, Melilla’s bullring, which is being used to house some people over 18, these young people find themselves literally trapped in Melilla, without access to any emergency accommodation, despite the public health crisis.
Young people just over eighteen experience firsthand the many “side-effects” of being forced into homelessness: they become invisible to everyone.
Young women are even more invisibilized. Right now in Melilla, we know of three women who live on the streets. We know that there are more, given that there is no way for them to leave the city, but we do not know where they are. From speaking to some of these young women, we know that many, invisible and without protection, end up forced into sex work, exploitative work conditions and other forms of slavery.
We encourage you to watch the ten-episode series 18+1, a true-to-life portrayal of these experiences, and to read more on their blog: