Many bruises and unhealed wounds on arms and legs. One has emptied the pot of ‘Betadine’ on one ankle. But in these fifteen children there are many other scars that are not seen, some from their previous life in Morocco and many others are being burned into their skin after being rough on the streets of Ceuta for three months. Some have never entered the temporary reception centers because they do not trust the supposed Spanish protection system.
“We are hungry,” says a 14-year-old boy to one of the members of Maakum, Yasmina El Haddad Alí, who speaks with them every day in their mother tongue at the door of the supermarket where they spend the day looking for food.
“At the beginning they gave us a lot of food, but less and less”, laments one of the smallest with the appearance of not exceeding 12 years, who under his cap looks with bright eyes that only those who survive on the street can have. He knows how to make a living and does not intend to return to his native Tetouan.
“People who are interested in going back will come back. If they kick me out, I’ll go back to Spain,” explains Ali, a fictitious name, only 15 years old, who has an older brother in Algeciras and who is also a migrant. Ali wants to meet him as soon as possible, so he lives near the port and dreams of sneaking into a boat and crossing to the other side of the Strait. There are four brothers, two others are still in Morocco, in El Rincón, a few kilometers from Ceuta.
“I have my trade, I fix tires, punctures, etc … and I would like to continue working on that. If you come it is because your life in Morocco is not good. My family does not want me to return. When my mother found out that I was here in Ceuta told me please not to come back, to be strong and to stay here. In Morocco we had a very bad time, they kill us with sacrifice. I left school and went to work early, “says Ali in one of the neighboring streets. to the industrial estate that surrounds the port of Ceutí.
Despite living on the street, he still maintains the optimism that he will soon continue on his way to the Peninsula: “Things change here every day, I am hopeful”, Yasmina translates, who has a capacity to empathize with the kids that only gives the confidence of the day a day .
Yasmina, like Mar or Isabel, who accompany them on this journey they take every day, are the best reflection of civil society that is mobilized to help these kids on the streets of Ceuta. They are members of collectives and associations such as Maakum, NonameKitchen, ELIN, always a beacon in the defense of the rights of migrants in Ceuta for more than 20 years, or Andalusia Welcomes, one of the few NGOs that has a permanent lawyer in Ceuta to help all these people in transit.
“I feel much better on the street than in the center”
Tarek, another fictitious name to protect his identity, is 17 years old. After spending half his life in Tanger and half in Castillejos, he has crossed for the first time.
“I feel much better on the street than living in the center. There we suffocate, they don’t even let us go outside to breathe air at the door. That’s why I escaped from there a month ago,” he says in reference to the Santa Amelia sports center, the pavilion from where the 55 children who have left Morocco since Friday have been returned.
“I left there because they insulted me and the security guards did not treat me well, they threatened to bring the gun,” he laments.
Report insults and assaults
“At the slightest failure they begin to insult you, they attack you, you have to sleep forcefully, sometimes the SAMU workers, the entity that manages several of these centers or the security guards attacked us,” he insists.
“My dream is to go up to the Peninsula and find a better life”, says this teenager who has been living on the street in Castillejos for the last seven years: “I had some addiction problems and since I was having a very bad time I went to Ceuta and here I have cut off the whole issue of addictions. I don’t take anything, I’m trying to improve, “he says with a smile, but with the tired face of someone who has lived without affection for too long.
“I want to stay and go to the Peninsula, not go back to Morocco, there are very few who want to go, they are those who live nearby, those from Castillejos. If they throw me out, I’ll go back in, swimming or whatever. My mother She is happy that I am here and tells me not to go to Morocco, “she explains.
Already at the farewell he says that living here is better, that he has had a bad time in life and that a friend of his died on the border, he “broke his head” in 2018. He goes with another 14-year-old boy, who also went through the sports center and that he also escaped, and that he knows several of his friends who have been expelled in the group of 55.
They are the street children, whom no one knows how to quantify, but who continue with the firm conviction that crossing the border to this side was worth it. The other side of a protection system that continues to fail from the first day and continues to do so 3 months later. They are those that do not exist in the statistics, but that all the residents of Ceuta see every day. Children who suffer and dream like those who are on the official lists, although they all agree on the same, in no case do they want to be returned to Morocco.