Crisis in Spanish politics over the distribution of migrant children

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migrant children

Spain is currently experiencing a significant political divide over the issue of distributing migrant children across the country. The far-right party Vox is in stark opposition to the Partido Popular (PP) regarding proposed changes to the Immigration Law and the handling of unaccompanied minor migrants.

This division arises from the emergency situation caused by the large influx of unaccompanied minor migrants to the Canary Islands. In response, the Spanish central government is negotiating changes to the Immigration Law to alleviate pressure on overcrowded reception centres. The proposal suggests that when these centres exceed 150% of their capacity, other regions must obligatorily take in these minors.

Vox’s ultimatum

Vox has issued an ultimatum, threatening to withdraw from all regional agreements with the PP unless their governments employ “all political and legal means” to prevent the redistribution of migrant children. Additionally, the Catalan party Junts per Catalunya is negotiating an exemption for Catalonia, citing that the region already hosts a significant number of minor migrants compared to other regions and wishes to retain control over immigration policies.

Upcoming conference

The Sectoral Conference for Children and Adolescents is set to convene in Tenerife this Wednesday. This meeting includes representatives from the government, autonomous communities, and the Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, aiming to discuss the redistribution of unaccompanied minor migrants. However, only seven autonomous communities have confirmed the attendance of their ministries.

Dispute between Vox and PP

The conference is clouded by Vox’s ultimatum to the Partido Popular (PP). Vox leader Santiago Abascal has linked the presence of minor migrants to increased crime and insecurity. Despite Vox’s threats, PP’s national spokesperson, Borja Sémper, has expressed support for a solidarity-based reception system, provided it comes with adequate funding. Sémper has called on the government to discuss a redistribution system that aligns with the capacities of different regions.

The minister of Youth and Children, Sira Rego, has appreciated this stance but emphasised waiting for the outcomes of the Sectoral Conference discussions.

Current situation with migrant minors

The Canary Islands are currently accommodating over 5,500 minor migrants, predominantly teenage boys from Senegal, Mali, Gambia, and Morocco. All minors under 16 are enrolled in regular education, while older youths are offered vocational training. In 2023, the autonomous communities agreed to take in 396 minor migrants. However, only four regions—Andalucia, Aragon, Asturias, and Navarra—have adhered to these agreements, while regions like Catalonia and Madrid have yet to accept any minors.

Regional disagreements

The minister of Inclusion, Youth, Family, and Equality of Andalucia, Loles López, has expressed support for redistribution if there is sufficient funding and time to secure necessary resources. The Catalan government plans to ask the central government to adjust its proposal to reflect Catalonia’s specific situation. Aragon has stated that its capacity is already overwhelmed, with 309 minors in residential care, 134 of whom are migrants.

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