PP government and communities to clash over compulsory distribution of migrant minors | Spain

One month after the distribution of unaccompanied foreign minors threw himself into the political strugglethe representatives of two ministries and the government of the Canary Islands will present this Wednesday to the autonomous communities their proposal to impose by law the distribution of these children and adolescents in the Spanish territory. The Sectoral Conference on Children, a meeting that usually goes unnoticed, will monopolize all the spotlight in Tenerife. The second item on the agenda will report on the change in the immigration law, the formula that the central executive and the Canary Islands –overwhelmed by the reception of almost 6,000 minor migrants– have agreed that the distribution of children is no longer voluntary (and insufficient), as has been the case until now. It will be the first opportunity for representatives of all communities to debate the text and although there will be no vote (even if there were, it would not be binding), the controversy is served.

The proposal, which the two parties have been working on for months, has finally caused a political storm with speeches that are difficult to reconcile. The measure needs a vote in the Congress of the PP, which co-governs the Canary Islands, especially after the Junts has declared its intention to withdraw from most of the investiture in this matter, while continuing to demand immigration powers and for Catalonia to be excluded from any possible partition. The discourse of the PP, which governs in eleven autonomous communities, has escalated towards increasingly radical positions. On the one hand, the popular They guarantee solidarity, as long as it is not mandatory. On the other hand, they have used the opportunity to push through a complete change in the government's immigration policy, even going so far as to claim that the navy blocks the canoes upon arrival, in line with the Vox program. In its strategy to boycott any agreement, Vox threatens to do the same are five autonomous governments to break with the PP if any of these autonomies includes a single minor, even voluntarily. Santiago Abascal has linked underage migrants to “the spread of insecurity throughout Spain” and has assured that his party will not be “complicit in robberies, machetes and rapes.”

The text, which has once again dragged the most vulnerable group into the centre of controversy, aims to add to the Immigration Law the obligation to welcome foreign minors when the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla see their reception systems exceed 150% of their capacity. . With the current situation of collapse, the communities would have twelve months to receive around 2,500 children and adolescents from these three communities, in addition to receiving any new minors who arrive within a period of fifteen days. The distribution protocol will be deactivated once the area exceeded falls below 150% of its capacity again.

The failure of voluntary solidarity

The special thing about these three areas is that They are the main gateways for illegal immigration. The three depend on the management of the government to transfer adults in each wave of migration, but in the specific case of minors, the communities are responsible for their reception and the relocation has so far depended on the goodwill of the autonomous government in power. Since 2018, when Andalusia demanded solidarity, different voluntary formulas have been tried. The one with the greatest consensus was concluded in 2022 and continues to this day with a voluntary reception of minors arriving in the Canary Islands and Ceuta. The annual quota is around 400 children (about 1,200 in three years), but it does not work. For example, of the 2023 distribution, only three communities completed the reception to which they had committed. According to official data, 62 children have been removed from Ceuta and the Canary Islands between Andalusia, Aragon and Asturias.

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Next Wednesday’s meeting should in fact deal with the quotas and financing for the distribution of 347 minors corresponding to 2024, whose approval was suspended during the last sectoral conference. PP sources assure that the popular governments are willing to assume this quota, which is voluntary, but do not offer a legal solution that would jeopardize all regional leaders. Given the discomfort of the communities when they learned from the press that the agreement on compulsory distribution had been concluded, it was decided to postpone it and a redistribution that had already been agreed is once again in the air.

Regardless of how the PP positions itself in the coming days, the Executive's plan is to bring the legislative amendment to Congress anyway. The scenario in which the Ministry of Territorial Policy is moving is to present the proposal before July 15, so that it can be discussed in the plenary session of Congress on the 23rd, when there will be a vote on whether or not to accept it for processing. Once this step has been taken, the Senate will have two months to return it to Congress for final approval. “If the PP wants it, it could be ready in one or two months,” government sources point out. The Canary Islands Government wants more speed and is pushing for it to be approved in the Council of Ministers as a decree law, which will come into force immediately, even though Congress must ratify it and without the support of the PP it could fail. The situation in the Canary Islands is critical: thousands of children live in overcrowded conditions, without going to school or receiving an education. At the same time, there is a lack of sufficient staff to staff the centres and cases of abuse of minors have been reported.

The meeting will be chaired by the Minister of Youth and Children, Sira Rego, and the Minister of Territorial Policy, Ángel Víctor Torres, as the main interlocutor with the Canary Islands authorities on this issue. Fernando Clavijo, President of the Canary Islands, will also participate in the meeting. According to sources from the Ministry of Youth, only eight representatives of autonomous communities will visit Tenerife. They are Andalusia (PP), Canary Islands (CC-PP), Castilla y León (PP-Vox), Extremadura (PP-Vox), Murcia (PP-Vox), Castilla-La Mancha (PSOE), Navarra (PSOE- Geroa Bai -Contigo Navarra) and Catalonia (ERC, caretaker government). The rest will join electronically.

The PP communities rebel against the obligation, claiming that they too are at the limit, but the available data on unaccompanied foreign minors do not support this claim, since the difference between the territories is notable. If we take into account the number of children and adolescents who have emigrated to Spain alone and who have been registered since June 2023, we can see that Cantabria, Castilla y León, La Rioja, Galicia, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Asturias, Aragon and Navarra have each received fewer than a hundred minors per year. The comparison of the registered children with the population shows another great imbalance: while Ceuta, the Canary Islands or Melilla receive between 333 and 126 minors per 100,000 inhabitants, in the rest of the communities there are fewer than 23 minors per 100,000 inhabitants.

The figures are also a problem in this debate. In addition to not being made public, the National Police’s minors registry, the only centralised database, does not give an accurate picture of the situation. The registry barely reflects the identification of the minor when he or she arrives in an autonomous community, which does not mean that the child will continue to live in that same community after a certain period of time. Unlike what happens in non-peninsular areas, in the peninsula thousands of minors end up moving independently across Spain to other provinces or to other countries. With such a lack of control, also in these figures, the communities attack the government, because they do not reflect the real efforts made in their reception. This is the case, for example, in Catalonia, which claims to host 6,759 children and adolescents, a figure that is far removed from what the government recognises.

The number of registered minors in each area is relevant because one of the criteria that will be taken into account in relocations is the reception effort of each community. The other parameters are related to income and unemployment, territorial distribution, a guideline already agreed for voluntary benefits.

The PP communities will demand more funding for reception in communities that have exceeded their capacity. “In general, the areas can serve up to the limit of their capacity. Exceeding it would be inhumane behaviour. For everything that exceeds our maximum reception capacity, it is the government that must provide the resources,” PP spokesperson Borja Sémper said on Tuesday. The proposition is difficult because “maximum reception capacity” is a very relative concept. Regions that fall under the PP, such as La Rioja, Extremadura or Galicia, areas where a large number of minors usually do not arrive, do not have the necessary infrastructure to welcome them, which does not mean that they cannot make it possible. The change in the law implies “sufficient resources” to co-finance the reception and for investment in infrastructure. According to the PP, the popular autonomies that have exceeded their capacity are “almost all of them”.

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