The Canary Islands continue to be a refuge for more than 2,500 unaccompanied foreign minors who have arrived in boats and cayucos in the last year and a half. Despite the calls for help, the autonomous community continues to take care of it alone, only 132 transfers have been made to other communities and its resources are insufficient to cover basic aspects of assistance. Among the problems, it stands out that only 3% of the nearly 3,000 children and adolescents who have disembarked on the islands since September 2019 have obtained their residence authorization, a procedure guaranteed by law and that, in theory, should be carried out without delay. The rest of the minors, although they are not considered irregular, live undocumented. The data has been revealed by Unicef in an investigation on migrant children in the islands published this Wednesday. “The delay in the initiation of these procedures is particularly serious for children who arrive with ages close to the age of majority, since they run the risk of being in an irregular migratory situation at 18 years of age, despite having been in the child protection system and have the right to this permission ”, the document states.
Unicef highlights in its report the efforts of the autonomous government and of all the actors involved in the reception and care of migrant children, but insists that the system has been saturated, once again, in the face of an emergency such as the one experienced by the Canary Islands last year. last year, with the disembarkation in its ports more than 23,000 migrants. In the specific case of the basic documentation of the youngest, the crisis situation has caused delays in the reviews (a responsibility of the National Police), in the age determination tests (in the hands of the Prosecutor’s Office) and in the formalization of guardianships by the autonomous community, the previous step to apply for residence permits. In addition, the organization highlights, there are difficulties for countries of origin and consulates to provide documents and passports.
Another of the shortcomings that Unicef has found in the Canary Islands is the number of children who are not going to school. According to the investigation, only 416 children under the age of 16 were enrolled in the school year that just ended. The organization has not been able to specify what percentage of all children of compulsory school age that figure represents, but suggests that it is small. The luck of going to school ends up depending on the entity that manages the reception center or whether the institute or school where the accommodation is located has places or not, according to the coordinator of the study, Pablo Ceriani. “In emergency resources there is a general absence of schooling and professional training processes,” the report warns. “In general, training in these centers is limited to Spanish classes and, in certain cases, literacy classes by the center’s educational team.”
The organization considers that schooling is essential not only for integration, but also for mental health, detection of vulnerabilities and protection against abuse and violence. “Our experience in humanitarian crises of different types reveals that access to education is one of the most urgent rights to implement in a scenario like this,” the report maintains. Sara Collantes, a UNICEF migration specialist and one of the researchers, explained during the presentation of the study that there is a recurring request among children and adolescents. “The desire to study and train is what has been repeated the most in our interviews. They are desperate to study, to do something, they cannot bear to spend the day doing nothing ”, he has detailed. “This frustration puts their mental health at risk, something that educators and psychologists tell us.”
The researchers, who visited 27 shelters on different islands, also reveal other shortcomings in their report: overcrowding, prolonged stay in emergency centers where up to 20 children sleep per room, situations of violence in which they can be seen minors involved or lack of psychological assistance. In addition, they highlight the lack of supervision of the Prosecutor’s Office, guarantor of the rights of minors, which has hardly visited the protection centers and does not have a contingency plan for situations such as the current one. His conclusion is that all the issues analyzed lead to the same premise: “In a crisis context, the current model is insufficient, inadequate and ineffective.” It was in Andalusia in 2018, and now in the Canary Islands and in Ceuta.
Among its proposals, Unicef demands a national strategy for the protection and social integration of migrant and former minors, which is already in the process of being drawn up by the Ministry of Social Rights, but also a contingency plan. In emergency situations, he argues, there must be a referral mechanism between autonomous communities, stable reception resources throughout the territory, more means and more coordination.