Sub-Saharan migrants rest in Hipodromo beach in Melilla, Spanish enclave in northern Africa Credit: EPA/ F.G. Guerrero
Sub-Saharan migrants rest in Hipodromo beach in Melilla, Spanish enclave in northern Africa Credit: EPA/ F.G. Guerrero

The government in Melilla is calling for a reform on the law on foreigners, to face "the flood" of unaccompanied minor migrants and to keep them in reception centers. The governor of the autonomous city in Morocco, Jose Imbroda, of the Partido Popular (PP) said these migrants aren't "disaffected or defenseless children" which they can receive when they reach adult age.

 Imbroda, cited by Spanish media, said the situation should be faced "not in terms of minor protection, but as a migration problem". 

Melilla facing emergency of mass arrivals

 The migrant emergency in the Spanish enclave has worsened in recent months, with mass arrivals of unaccompanied minors, the majority of whom are Moroccan. In fact, there were 260 in the month of September alone, which brought the total number of minors in Melilla reception centres to 700, in addition to another 100 living on the streets who refuse government assistance. Structures managed by the city's social services, such as "La Purisima", which is currently hosting 400 minors - double its capacity - continually see minors fleeing as they await temporary stay permits. This has led the national police, civil guard and municipal police to put a daily security force in place beginning at 22:00 each evening to track unaccompanied minors wandering the streets or shores, to identify them and bring them back to the protection centres. 

Reform to adapt the law to Melilla's unique needs

 The PP party in Melilla announced that the administration will put forward a reform proposal to the law on foreigners and legal protection of minors, to "adapt them to the unique situation in Melilla". For its part, Governor Imbroda insisted on the need to review the laws to abolish residency permits "to 17-year-old minors who arrive in Melilla with the sole objective of getting the documentation". "They're not abandoned, they don't come from families who can't support them or who abuse them," he said.Without a residence permit, Imbroda said the minors could be repatriated to Morocco, thereby decreasing the migratory pressure on the Spanish enclave. He said it will take 40 days for the city commmissions to examine the bill to propose to the central government for a reform "to be approved by the current legislature". He announced at the same time other measures, such as locating structures to create new reception centres or the formation of street education groups "to convince" the adolescent migrants to sleep in the structures for youth. 

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