Rabea with her two grandchildren who arrived in Ceuta from Morocco in May 2021. PACO PUENTES
Hamza (fictitious name, like those of all the children in this story) looks carefully when someone asks him in Spanish.
Before answering, you can almost hear the little gears in his brain turning.
-You go to school?
Spanish is easier than Arabic,” says the eight-year-old.
In front of him laughs his cousin Tareq, six years older and much more shy.
Both Moroccan minors, who have spent their last birthday in Ceuta, spend the afternoon together playing in the evening of the El Príncipe neighborhood in the care of their grandmother.
Hamza and Tareq arrived in the autonomous city on May 17, 2021, swimming from the shore next to the international pass of El Tarajal, on the Moroccan side, to the Ceuta beach of La Almadraba, during the border crisis that kept the city in suspense for four days.
Between 10,000 and 14,500 people, according to the latest estimates of the local government, entered during those endless days in which the Moroccan guards turned a blind eye, while the Spanish Army was deployed on the coast;
Up to 1,400 minors were able to arrive alone or accompanied by relatives.
The episode, unleashed after the humanitarian reception in Spain of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Gali,
Several of the minors who arrived in May 2021, last week on Almadraba beach with their monitor. PACO PUENTES (EL PAIS)
The number of children and adolescents returned hot by the security forces as they stepped on the sand of the beach is unknown (there is only one case investigated and filed by the Prosecutor's Office).
Other little ones returned by their own feet, many others lived poorly for months on the streets of the city until they managed to escape to the Peninsula, but there were also those who were received with open arms by their relatives when they reached the shore.
The uncertain fate of Moroccan minors in Ceuta
"My son called me [from Morocco], told me that he couldn't keep the children and threw them into the sea," recalls Rabea, a 61-year-old cross-border domestic worker, who stayed in Ceuta in 2020 to continue supporting her husband. , cancer patient.
Her son, uncle of the little ones, blurted out: "The responsibility is yours, go pick them up."
Tareq and her two older sisters, Aisha, 16, and Zeinab, 18, had been left behind in Morocco by her uncle.
Rabea, the grandmother, was waiting for them in Ceuta.
Hamza's father also took advantage of the same 17 to leave his house: he took his son and together they swam to meet his wife, sister of Tareq's mother, Aisha and Zeinab,
“I wasn't scared because I knew my mother was there,” says Hamza: “At first, even though we saw the police trying to scare us, I wasn't scared.
The only time I did get scared was when a police officer came up to shake my hand to help me, but with a bad face.
The journey of the two cousins, who crossed separately, is that of many children who remained in Morocco separated from their parents, who worked in houses and businesses in Ceuta to maintain the family economy and, to a large extent, that of the city itself. Spanish autonomous.
The events of May 2021 cannot be understood without a border closure that began a year earlier under the pretext of the health emergency, but which was perpetuated, although never officially, by the diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco due to the dispute over the Sahara.
Moroccan minors who arrived in Ceuta in May 2021 were helped last week by collaborators of Sabah Ahmed, a businesswoman from the city. PACO PUENTES (EL PAIS)
The total opening of the border crossing is still to be defined.
On Tuesday, the El Tarajal border, like the Beni Enzar Melilla border, will reopen only for citizens and residents of the European Union and for those authorized to circulate in the Schengen area.
On the 31st, the steps will be expedited for the transit of the so-called "cross-border", Moroccan citizens with work authorizations in both autonomous cities.
Tareq, the little one, is now the only one of the three brothers who lives with his grandmother.
He and his cousin sleep alone in the beds arranged in a garage that an acquaintance rents to the woman for 150 euros a month.
There they have installed good second-hand appliances to be able to cook and earn a little more for food services.
The median is housed in a center under the guardianship of the autonomous city, like another 280 minors who entered then and who are still in charge of the Administration.
Many, like the older sister, have left;
others have died or disappeared trying to reach the Peninsula.
Sources from the reception services denounce a "disbandment" of kids since the summer that caused the drastic drop in figures, from about 1,000 children, in a city of 85,000 inhabitants, to levels prior to the crisis.
The disbandment accelerated in August, when the Ministry of the Interior, the Government Delegation and the local Executive carried out the repatriation of 55 minors.
These returns, even protected by a 2007 agreement between Rabat and Madrid, did not comply with the due legal guarantees.
Justice ended up stopping the plan.
Now, both Administrations are still immersed in the repatriation process established by the Immigration Law and which requires individualized reports that have already been sent in full, according to the Vice President of Ceuta, Mabel Deu.
“All this is a somewhat complicated framework;
It is true that repatriation exists, but when has it been fulfilled?
Yes, we have been working on that since May, ”cries the counselor with competences in minors.
"Of all this procedure, so far, we still have not a single resolution,
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