Yesterday, June 12th, was the World Day Against Child Labor, an unfortunate reality in the city of Melilla. Below we analyze publications, news and daily events in the city that generate situations of child labor and exploitation.
In January of this year, CIDOB (Center for International Relations of Barcelona) published an analysis comparing the management of migration in different Spanish regions, including the Autonomous City of Melilla. It confirms something already felt by our volunteers on the ground, which is that the city does not have an integration model, does not have clear objectives or a coordinating structure and that no specific actions are being taken to reduce the inequality between migrants and nationals.
In addition, the regulatory framework hinders access to the most basic rights of children, such as administrative barriers blocking access to the census or long waits to access social services. This means that minors in transit and minors who were born in Melilla but whose situation has not been regularized find themselves in an administrative limbo. Without access to basic rights such as education, they often have no option but to work from a young age.
Many of the unschooled minors are under the care of the Autonomous City of Melilla in various reception centers in the city, including La Purísima.
This is a center for minors located on the outskirts of Melilla, 200 meters off the border fence. The building was a military fort until 2001, when it became a facility for minors.
The lack of decent conditions, of schooling and of integration efforts, as well as the treatment received, results in minors under guardianship deciding to go off to the streets to "make a living", even before reaching the legal age to be able to work (according to article 6 of the workers' statutes, in which "The admission to work of minors under sixteen years of age is prohibited."). Thus, they have no other path other than unregulated and precarious work, where neither the conditions nor the salary are decent. Many opt to leave the shelter for good and live on the street, where they remain invisible in the eyes of government administrations and associations.
"The center is no good. I make my own living, the street"
Testimony of a minor in “street situation”, June 2nd, 2022, Melilla.
There are children who get relatively constant jobs, such as accompanying a merchant, selling their products or preparing and collecting stalls in the city's markets. Others must resign themselves to cleaning or parking cars, delivering groceries, etc. in exchange for a few euros, which they sometimes never receive.
Last week, different media outlets published a news article titled "The Civil Guard dismantles in Melilla an organization that used minors under guardianship in the center of La Purisima for drug trafficking".
This is yet another example of the deficiencies in the Spanish system for receiving unaccompanied minors.
From Solidary Wheels we demand the protection and integration of minors, the need to guarantee their rights and to offer support in their transition into adulthood. Policies and actions that promote the criminalization of these children must be eliminated through concrete norms that take into account that being a minor takes precedence over being an irregular migrant.
We denounce the institutional abandonment and the inability of the current social policies to respond to the needs of children. These practices endanger the physical and moral integrity of the minors subjected to this type of work. Mostly through coercion and manipulation (taking advantage of their misinformation or naivety), minors are made to participate in illegal and unsafe work. It is a clear example of how the capitalist system capitalizes on human poverty and exploits those in vulnerable situations.
Once again, we demand the right to be a child, for all of them, anywhere in the world!