Plight of Migrant Children in Spain Prompts Alarm

Three months ago, Spanish officials estimated there were 10,000 unaccompanied minors living in the country — 70 percent of them Moroccan. But more than 11,000 migrant children were recorded having arrived in Spain in 2018 alone, and previous migrant influxes had already swept in at least 4,000, say civil-society groups.

“The registry of unaccompanied minors is not working properly,” says the non-profit Fundacion Raices, which promotes the rights of migrant children. Not knowing the actual numbers is “very worrying, because it speaks of the mismanagement that prevails in our country in the protection policies of minors,” the non-profit has warned.

The plight of child migrants in Spain is being highlighted once again, this time in the run-up to a possible snap election later this year that Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who leads a fragile minority government, may decide to call. Populist right wing parties are following the playbook of their counterparts in neighboring Italy and have focused on migrants as a possible vote-winning issue in pre-election campaigning.

Last month, Vox became the first far-right party in four-decades to win seats in a regional assembly in Spain, partly on the back of its call for illegal immigrants to be repatriated and for walls to built around Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, to stop illegal migrants who have been climbing over the border fences.

The leader of Spain’s conservative opposition Popular party, led by Pablo Casado, is hardening its anti-immigrant rhetoric, prompting Sanchez to accuse it of fueling “the politics of fear.”

And there’s plenty of fear and frustration to go around. In Barcelona, locals cite lawlessness as their biggest headache, ahead of affordable housing or the intractable Catalan independence issue. With petty theft, violent robberies and burglaries all increasing as well begging and illegal street selling, many neighborhood associations in the Catalan capital blame asylum-seekers — among them migrant children.

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