Migrants who came to Spain as unaccompanied minors should be able to obtain the right to residence and work when they come of age. That is the view of the Minister of Migration, who does not want their status changed to “illegal” after the age of eighteen.
That is not the case now. However, care and shelter has been arranged for unaccompanied minor migrants in Spain. Money has been invested in an education, but once these young people reach the legal age of majority their status changes to ‘illegal’. The current regulations prevent them from converting this status into a work and residence permit.
Ayoub – a 20-year-old from Morocco
That’s how it went for twenty-year-old Ayoub El Bouzdid. At sixteen he fled from Morocco to Melilla, in search of a better life. From then on he lived in different parts of Spain, constantly looking for work. At the shelter in Melilla, he trained as a mason, gardener and food processor to improve his chances once he came of age.
Still, on his eighteenth birthday, he ended up on the street, with a residence permit for a maximum of 25 days. In Barcelona, Ayoub looked for a job and tried to convert his short-term permit into a permanent work and residence permit. It would only be awarded to him if he earned 4 times the monthly income index (IPREM). That equates to a monthly salary of €2,151, which was impossible for him. His status was not converted and from then on his stay in Spain was illegal.
Young people disappear in the margins of society
The Spanish government estimates 8,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 23 are in a similar situation. They also came to Spain as unaccompanied minors, were received and trained by authorities of the autonomous regions. However, they ended up on the street as illegal refugees on their eighteenth birthday. Without the right to shelter or work, these young people quickly end up on the fringes of society. Spain also has 8,000 minor migrants who face the same fate on their eighteenth birthday. They remain dependent on NGOs that take care of them.
Founder Michel Bustillo of NGO Otro Mundo wonders why Spain invests in the reception and training of minor migrants, if it is then made impossible for them to stay. “Clearly no cost-benefit analysis has been made with the investment in these young people,” says Bustillo, who takes care of Ayoub’s fate. According to Bustillo, if Ayoub were allowed to work, he would not need any financial support from the government. But now he is being deprived of all opportunities.
The Ministry of Migration wants to change that. Negotiations have been ongoing with other ministries since April to relax the rules for minors and young migrants. For example, it must be possible for young people from the age of 16 to work. Also, the requirements for work and residence after their 18th birthday will be adjusted so they are not classified illegal.
The Ministry of the Interior objected to this new migrant law. They feel it could potentially attract even more young migrants to Spain. Nevertheless, the Minister of Migration hopes the bill will be approved in the Council of Ministers in the coming weeks.