Migrant children in Melilla are at risk, according to MEPs who visited both sides of the border of the Spanish North African enclave. They said the situation requires urgent action from authorities.

GUE/NGL MEPs Malin Björk (Sweden) and Josu Juaristi (Basque Country) said children in centres, on the streets, and those born in Melilla who are undocumented and not entitled to go to school face a dramatic situation.

They said they heard reports of children being separated from parents for up to two months while their DNA was being checked with no rights or a very limited right for parents to see their own child. This has lead to cases of new mothers not being able to breastfeed babies and considerable psychological distress for both mothers and children. Cases of sexual abuse of boys and girls have also been reported to the delegation.

In the La Purisima centre that currently houses 445 unaccompanied minors, the visiting MEPs estimated that more than 100 of the children do not have a bed.

“The conditions in the centre are not acceptable,” said Björk. “When it is overcrowded like this, it is inevitable that some will leave and instead live on the streets. Minors have specific rights and we must always look to the best interests of the child. In this case, it means that minors will have to be transferred to the mainland in order to provide decent conditions.”

“The situation of children living on the street is desperate, they urgently need specific care. This is a duty of the state, that the state is not abiding by,” she added.

Juaristi accused the Spanish government and the European Union of “externalising indifference”.

“What is happening with unaccompanied minors in Melilla (mostly Moroccans) and in the area of Nador (Moroccans and Sub-Saharan Africans) is a dramatic example of this,” he said. “Another generation trapped in fear and rejection, in a spiral of poverty and desperation, without healthcare or schooling, without employment or a future, on the streets or in so-called reception centres where they live in terrible conditions, overcrowded, always with the police or private security services on their backs. And all this happens in front of everybody willing to see it, but repressed, utilised, and made invisible by the Moroccan and Spanish governments, and the EU.”