Three attacks on migrant centers hosting unaccompanied minors in Catalonia have raised concern about xenophobic trends in the region and are jeopardizing peaceful coexistence. The most serious incident occurred on Saturday in Castelldefels near Barcelona, where the Cal Granxo facilities, which host 35 unaccompanied foreign minors granted protection by the Generalitat, the Catalonian regional government, was attacked at 9:30 PM by a group of about 20 youths wearing hoods.
The group broke into the center, destroyed furniture and tried to attack the migrants and workers. One Moroccan youth was dropped from a border fence and then pelted with stones. He was treated for shock at the hospital alongside two of those working at the center who suffered bruises, investigative sources quoted by the media said. Catalan police guarding the entrance to the Cal Granxo center prevented about 60 youths from attacking it again the following morning.
Sources from the Catalan administration quoted by El Pais called it an ''intolerable, unjustifiable racist attack'' that has been reported to the prosecutor's officer as a hate crime. They announced that the Generalitat would be the plaintiff in the trial.
Concern over the sharp rise of unaccompanied minors in the region - estimated at 1,489 in 2017, 3,659 in 2018, and predicted to rise to 5,500 by the end of 2019 - is also surging. The attack on the Cal Granxo center was the third in recent weeks. The first was on February 28 at the Can Xatrac facilities in Canet de Mar, also near Barcelona, which since October has hosted about 50 Moroccan minors.
On the same day, about 40 inhabitants of the town protested in front of the town council over the lack of security that they claimed was caused by the presence of the young migrants. Five days later, on March 5, a man armed with a machete broke into the same facilities and tried to injure the young foreigners but was stopped by workers. The man was arrested by the police for making threats but has since been released.
''We do not believe that the situation is of concern,'' the head of equality, migration, and citizenship for the Generalitat, Oriol Amoros said whilst speaking about the recent incidents. Amoros said that in most of the 150 centers for unaccompanied minors in the region the situation was calm, though he admitted that problems had arisen due to the increase in arrivals.
''They are overcrowded facilities where foreign minors do not take part in educational projects, nor do they receive personalized attention,'' said the vice president of the Collegi d'Educadors Socials de Catalunya, Lluis Vila, who was speaking to the newspaper El Periodico. The situation has led to many migrant minors, most of whom are Moroccans, to flee and seek work opportunities on their own in order to ''send money to their families, who invested everything they have to send them over the Straits of Gibraltar'," say those working at the centers.
'There's a need for more integration'
The non-governmental organization Save the Children said that the reception model in place was not working. ''It is essential that these youths come into contact with the community, that they be involved in joint projects in the countries where they are living in order to get rid of the stigma imposed on them on their arrival,'' said Emilie Rivas, head of the NGO in the Catalonia region.
Social workers are calling for a 'road map' for projects and a timeline for interventions, after 50 million euros was allocated to regional governments by the outgoing Socialist government under Pedro Sanchez for the reception of unaccompanied migrant minors.