A teenager being rescued with other migrants at the port of Motril in southern Spain | Photo: Miguel Paquet/Archive/EPA
A teenager being rescued with other migrants at the port of Motril in southern Spain | Photo: Miguel Paquet/Archive/EPA

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considers Spain responsible for violating the rights of a migrant minor who was forced to undress and undergo invasive medical examinations to determine her age.

Spain violated the rights of a migrant minor after she was forced to undress and undergo medical tests to determine her age, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) says. The committee cited a report released last Thursday (February 25) by the Fundación Raíces, a Spanish NGO that followed the case of the youth from Cameroon.

The young migrant was ordered by a state attorney to undergo medical examinations, including the examination of her genitals. She was deprived of the protection given to minors because she was declared an adult following the procedure.

Arcange – which is not her real name, to protect her identity – landed at Madrid's airport in 2017, the Fundación Raíces said. She fled Cameroon after being repeatedly raped. Police registered her as a minor and "potential asylum seeker".

She was transferred to a hosting center for minors, where the age she had declared, 16, was considered plausible by those taking care of her.

'Examine breasts and genitals'

Procedures subsequently ordered by a state attorney, including making the girl undress to "examine her breasts and genitals" raised doubt about her statement that she was a minor.

The prosecutor therefore declared her of age and deprived her of the protection reserved for minors under 18. Two years after her arrival, according to the Fundación Raíces, the UN asked for Arcange to be placed once again under the care of a hosting center for minors.

At the end of 2019, Spain recognized her status as a refugee.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said Spain violated the youth's rights, in particular since the procedure to determine her age constituted an "illegal interference into her private life as a victim of sexual violence."

Moreover, it accused Spain of not accepting as valid proof the documents in Arcange's possession that indicated her real age.

'I can now live and feel like myself'

"I am very happy to know that finally it is recognized and accepted that I was 16 and not 18 when I arrived in Spain," Arcange said.

The UN committee asked Spain to pay the refugee compensation for moral damage, offering her adequate psychological support and rectifying the age on her documents.

Moreover, it asked Spain to ban the practice of forcing underage migrants to go through invasive medical procedures to determine their age.

"I can now live feeling like myself, with my true age. I was someone they had made up before," Arcange said. Lourdes Reyzábal, the president of the Fundación Raíces, denounced that this type of examination to determine someone's age is common practice.

"We have already had hundreds of cases of this kind," Reyzábal told the Spanish newspaper El País.

 

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