Madrid Election Talk: Unaccompanied migrant children

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First of all, we need to stop calling unaccompanied migrant children menas. This is an acronym for menores extranjeros no acompañados (unaccompanied foreign minors) – in other words, children who leave their country and travel alone without the company of an adult.

In recent years, the word menas has been appropriated by the far right, which has consistently exploited the presence of unaccompanied migrant children to create a culture of xenophobia around immigration in general.

Far-right party Vox has launched its most aggressive electoral campaign to date. 

On Tuesday morning, commuters were bombarded with a giant Vox poster showing two people: an elderly woman and a hooded boy (Spanish newspapers are widely reporting him as a man) with a bandana covering his nose and mouth. The poster condemned the legally required care of unaccompanied minors and was requested to be removed from metro and train stations following a public outcry. Questions are being raised about how it was ever allowed to go up in the first place. But despite Más Madrid having reported the poster to the Prosecutor’s Office, racist Vox propaganda is still rearing its ugly head.

On Wednesday evening, a live election debate on Telemadrid played out in which the Vox candidate, Rocío Monasterio, waved the poster to the camera. The TV channel allowed the overtly racist and fake-news propaganda to play out and the debate move on without addressing it.

Children cannot be used as a political strategy to win votes.

… explains anti-racism organisation Ex-Menas Madrid, a growing platform defending the rights of the youngest generation of immigrants.

The largest nationality is Moroccan, at 68%, followed by Guinea Conakry (8.4%), Algeria (5.2%), Mali (4.5%) and Ivory Coast (3.5%). Around 92% are boys, just 8% girls. Most unaccompanied migrant children in Spain arrive by sea, a dangerous journey that kills thousands of migrants every year. They’re escaping institutional abandonment and a lack of educational and work opportunities. Once here, having narrowly survived the journey, they’re met with a concept they weren’t familiar with back home: racism, which is something left-wing parties are promising to tackle.

Right-wing vs. left-wing response:

The Left wants to increase the number of offices that facilitate the inclusion and empowerment of unaccompanied migrant children, as well as to create more sociocultural activities and sports as a key factor in their integration and life chances. It’s crucial that foreign minors are placed into care as soon as possible so that, by their 18th birthday, they don’t slip through the cracks and end up homeless – as so many do.

Left-wing parties plan to extend the right to vote for residents in the regional elections (just like the 4 May election) by urging the central government to modify the Representation of the People Institutional Act (LOREG).

Right-wing parties, on the other hand, want to close centres for migrant children, as well as Islamic cultural centres, and cut funding to integration programs. They show no signs of retreating from their racist and stigmatising rhetoric towards migrant children; rather, they are moving towards racist and xenophobic narratives that should be banished to the past.

What are we voting for?

  • To increase aid and support for migrant children!
  • To maintain the existence of support centres!
  • To allow migrants to vote!
  • To stop racism!


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