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The dreaded 18th birthday

The Spanish Constitution decrees that Spain “recognizes the right to the protection of health” and that “public institutions are charged with the organization and protection of public health by means of preventative measures and providing the necessary services” (art.43). However, we have once again witnessed how the divide between “first class” and “second class” citizens brings about dangerous medical consequences in the context of Melilla”.

A 17 year old person, under the guardianship of a centre for minors in this city, is not granted the security that their needs will be correctly attended to, not only as concerns documents, as we have been reporting on for many months, but when it comes to medical issues as well. The problems we have identified as concerns the lack of processing of documents for unaccompanied minors are further complicated when the person in question is particularly vulnerable due to specific health problems, such as chronic illness, the need for regular medication, organ dysfunction, physical or mental disabilities etc.

The detection, referral and treatment of these cases is failing, as we have witnessed in the case of Salah (*), who suffers from a hereditary illness that requires him to receive injections twice a week. Not receiving this medication could lead to serious medical complications, including physical disability, and the paralysis of vital organs, and therefore death. This is the frightening future that Salah was facing, a week before he turned 18, and without his documentation correctly processed. Without a valid Spanish identity card (TIE), he was unable to travel to the mainland, and there is no service in Melilla adapted to his type of illness.

Salah should have been referred to a specialized centre in a different Spanish region a long time before he turned eighteen, but this did not take place, which complicated his treatment and social accompaniment in Melilla, where the overcrowding in the centres for minors and the lack of specialized services means that basic rights are regularly infringed upon. Therefore, once he turned eighteen, Salah faced living on the streets. The streets are violent and dangerous for everyone, but they are especially deadly for such an extremely vulnerable person.

As with other cases, associations working in Melilla were required to intervene in order to protect Salah from the passivity of public institutions, who were prepared to abandon such a vulnerable person. Thankfully, through teamwork across numerous associations, Salah was able to travel to the mainland, to a specialized service, but we continue to demand that the public institutions of Melilla respect their duties as guardian of all unaccompanied minors in the city, who, when they turn eighteen, are most often abandoned by their legal guardians (the state), without any assistance in transitioning to adult life. If all the young unaccompanied people in Melilla left the centres for minors with their documentation fully processed, as the law requires, and if the individual necessities and wishes of each of them were taken into account, then Salah´s 18th birthday would not have been a moment to be dreaded, but to be celebrated, as it is for any “documented” teenager.

For cases such as Salah's, it is especially vital to be able to have a vehicle to support him throughout the process of regularising his administrative situation, as well as to accompany him to the ferry before his trip to the mainland. This is necessary in most cases, but even more so in cases of people with reduced mobility. Right now we are looking for help to raise the funds for our new car in Melilla. If you would like to help us by contributing or spreading the word, please do so in:

(*) The personal and medical details of the person have been altered in order to protect their privacy and anonymity.



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