Europe

Ceuta struggles to cope with influx of unaccompanied children

The Spanish north African enclave of Ceuta is struggling to cope with a recent rise in arrivals in unaccompanied migrant children.

More than 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers crossed into the territory last week after Morocco relaxed its border controls.

Among them were hundreds of children and adolescents, who Ceuta has struggled to accommodate.

In a statement sent to Euronews, Cruz Roja, or the Red Cross in Ceuta, said that at least 600 unaccompanied children were being housed at one warehouse converted into a shelter.

The children are being held under the supervision of the National Police as they carry out a 10-day coronavirus quarantine period.

However, concerns have been raised over the conditions in which children are being held, with one minor telling Spanish newspaper El País, “I want to get out of here” after sharing video appearing to show a bathroom floor covered in excrement after the toilets at one facility stopped working.

Meanwhile, other children who have not been taken in at the shelters have been sleeping outside, including in parks, according to local media outlets.

Speaking with El País, Mabel Deu, the vice-president of Ceuta said the situation had become “unsustainable”, but she said that some of the issues, including the clogged toilets at one facility, had been addressed.

Still, she said leadership in Ceuta was “overwhelmed” by the situation.

The vice-president appeared to lay some of the blame on the Spanish government, asserting that officials had “requested to use all the empty infrastructures that the General Administration of the State has in Ceuta” to accommodate children, but, she said, “they have not been made available”.

Deu said she believed that many of the children, as well as the “thousands of Moroccans” who entered Ceuta were “manipulated” into doing so.

“Many of these little ones, they tell us, were told that they were going to visit Ceuta to see a soccer match in which all the greats would play,” Deu said.

Since the mass crossings, the Spanish security forces have faced condemnation over reports of violence during the incident, including reports of migrants and asylum seekers being pushed back into the sea after Morocco opened its borders.

Since the influx of arrivals of unaccompanied children in Ceuta, Amnesty International has issued a statement “reminding the authorities that they must ensure that the best interests of the child are protected in all cases and that these young people must be able – if appropriate – to request international protection”.

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