When Spanish authorities encounter unaccompanied migrant children, they have the responsibility to place them under the care and protection of the Department of Social Welfare (Consejería de Bienestar Social), a branch of the autonomous provincial government.50 Melilla's Department of Social Welfare and Health oversees the operation of five residential centers (centros de acogida) for unaccompanied migrant children, the day-to-day operations of most of which are handled by nongovernmental organizations. Ceuta's Department of Social Welfare operates one facility for unaccompanied minors.51 Despite the existence of these facilities, the majority of unaccompanied migrant children in Ceuta and significant numbers of unaccompanied migrant children in Melilla live on the street, sometimes for years at a time.52
Officials in Ceuta and Melilla initially did not respond to and eventually denied our repeated requests for access to these facilities.53 Nevertheless, we were able to gather information about key aspects of life in these residential centers by speaking with children who had lived in the facilities. Nearly all of the thirty-seven youth we spoke with had stayed in one or more facilities; some were current or recent residents of a center in which they had lived for periods ranging from two months to one year or more.
In both cities, we found numerous instances where the authorities' treatment of unaccompanied children fell far short of international human rights standards and also failed to comply with relevant provisions of Spanish law. This chapter focuses on the most serious abuses children face when being taken to residential centers or while staying at the centers: police abuse upon apprehension, residential center staff's failure to protect children from abuse by other children, abusive disciplinary procedures, substandard physical conditions at some centers, arbitrary denial of access to education, and arbitrary denial of access to health care.
Eleven of the unaccompanied migrant children we interviewed in both Ceuta and Melilla told us Spanish police had beaten them, sometimes brutally. In Melilla, abuse was most frequent during expulsions, while in Ceuta police also beat children when taking them into custody. This section discusses only cases of children whom police later turned over to residential centers.54
Unaccompanied children are generally apprehended by one of three police units: the Civil Guard, the National Police, or the Local Police. Children report being beaten by officers in all units, often with a porra, a rubber baton with a metal core. They told us that police become more violent if a child attempts to escape. "Yes, they hit you," Ra`id I. said of the Local Police. "They hit you on the legs, the knees, the face. They use porras and their hands. They'll hit you if you've escaped and they've caught you again. Or if they catch you the first time and you try to escape."55 "If they catch you, they hit you," Shawqi M. said. "They hit you in the face. They don't treat you well. More than the police, it's the Civil Guard." He spoke of one officer who set dogs on the children living in the streets. "The dogs bite the kids. One is a Doberman. The other one, I don't know. It's big."56
Ihab J., a sixteen-year-old who had been in Ceuta for five months when we interviewed him in November 2001, told us that the Spanish police had taken him to San Antonio seven times. "They catch you in the port, and they take you to San Antonio. They've never hit me. They treat me well. Except for once, when a policeman hit me."57 Other children told us that units guarding the port were especially violent when apprehending children. Shihab R. described how police at the Ceuta port fractured his arm when they beat him in late October 2001:
Even children who didn't flee reported police beatings. Sixteen-year-old Omar H. came from Tangier to Ceuta in September 2001. The police picked him up in the city center shortly after he arrived. "I told them I was a minor, so they took me to the police station. They took down my name and all that. They hit me when I was at the station. They used a porra to hit me on the shoulders and thighs. They hit me in places where it wouldn't leave any marks. Two officers did this," he said. "I spent the day in the station, in a cell with other boys besides me. There were two other boys in the cell with me." The police took him to San Antonio at the end of the day.59 "There are some police who hit you," said `Abbas A., age sixteen. "When you're sleeping, they'll catch you" on the streets.60
Younger, smaller children, particularly those in Ceuta, told us that police ordinarily take them to shelters and do not mistreat them. "The first time the police caught me, I was in Príncipe [a poor neighborhood] looking for something to eat," said Musa Y., age thirteen. "They picked me up and took me to San Antonio. First they asked my name, the names of my parents, where I came from, all my information. Then they took me to the center."61 Similarly, Fares S., fourteen, told us, "The first time, the police took me to San Antonio. They caught me in the port and they took me. They didn't hit me or anything. I went directly to San Antonio. They didn't do anything to me." "They hit you if you try to escape," he later added. "If you don't run away, they don't." 62
Almost every child we interviewed reported suffering extortion, theft, and physical abuse by larger, older youth in the centers. Many reported the existence of youth gangs operating freely in the centers, but even where gangs were absent children said that their money, shoes, and other items of clothing are regularly stolen by older, larger youth. Theft and physical abuse appear to be more common at the largest residential centers, the San Antonio center in Ceuta and Purísima Concepción Fort in Melilla.
Sixteen-year-old `Abbas A. described the treatment from older youth in San Antonio: "At the beginning, they'll ask you for money. If you don't give them any, they'll wait until you're asleep. Then they take what they want."63 Another sixteen-year-old, Ra`id I., said, "The older kids punch you. They bother you. They hit you." When we asked him how old the older youth are, he replied, "They're nineteen or twenty years old. There's one group that is always there; they control everything. One will come to ask you for money. They'll hit you and rob you. There are about six or seven people in the group."64 "The older kids are the ones that study. They aren't all abusive. There's a group that abuses us. If you're ten, eleven, twelve, you get abused by them," said Fares S., age fourteen.65
Older children often take desirable food items from younger or smaller children. Echoing statements we heard frequently from youth who stayed at San Antonio, fourteen-year-old Sulayman S. told us, "The older kids hit you. They take what you have, chocolate and things like that."66 He said, for example, that older youth take the most desirable items from their meals. "They take it if they like it." Thirteen-year-old Musa Y. explained why children preferred to stay at the Mediterráneo Center, a facility for younger children in Ceuta. "We eat well, and they don't hit you, and all the kids are little kids."67
At least some centers appear to group children by age for sleeping. Musa Y. told us that children in San Antonio are assigned to modules with six beds each, and that others in his module were within two years of his age. "If there are more than six in the module, you sleep two to a bed," he said, telling us that he shared a bed with another boy during one of his stays at the center.68 However, San Antonio does little or nothing to separate children during the day, leaving younger or smaller children vulnerable to abuses. "The bigger kids will do something to you when the educators are changing shift," Ihab J., sixteen, explained. "Or an older boy will take you aside to a place that is apart from the group, someplace where you're alone. They'll say, `We're going to tell you the places where you can escape.' That's where they'll rob you. . . . They can't steal things from you in front of the educators. If you go to the bathroom, or if you're in one of those hidden places, they'll rob you there," he said.69
Several children told us that the conditions at these centers led them to run away in the belief that they would be safer on the streets. "If they take you there [to San Antonio], you escape. You try to escape because they don't treat you well there," said fifteen-year-old Shawqi M.70 Musa Y., told us that police first took him to San Antonio in August 2001, about an hour before lunch.71 He escaped at about 7 p.m. "I didn't want to be there because they mistreat you there," he said. Since August he has been in San Antonio several times, never staying longer than a week. "They hit you, and take your things . . . . That's the worst thing, the older kids hitting you."
Many children told us that the staff at San Antonio failed to investigate instances of theft and often failed to intervene even when abuses occurred in front of them. "Sometimes the older kids take our money, and the educators, seeing this, don't do anything. They rob you of your money. An older kid can hit you in front of an educator," said `Abd al Hadi S., fourteen."72 Wafiq H., thirteen, described his first night in San Antonio. "When I was sleeping, they took my shoes, mine and a friend's. We asked for our shoes, but we didn't find anything. I spoke to the educators, and they told me they couldn't do anything. In the morning, I escaped." Later in our interview, he said, "The older kids are bad. They hurt us. They take our food and our stuff. They bother us."73
Some children speculated about why the staff at San Antonio failed to protect them from abuse by other children at the center. "There are good people and bad people," said `Abbas A. "The good ones, when you tell them they [the older youth] are hitting you, they try to investigate. The bad ones refuse to do anything. They'll say, `Fight back' or `You need to fend for yourself however you can.'"74 Another child, fifteen-year-old Shihab R., explained, "The educators can't do anything because they're afraid" of the older children.75
Some residential center staff-known in both cities as "educators"-hit and threaten children for fighting, escaping, or committing other infractions. Children who had stayed at the Purísima Concepción Fort in Melilla and the San Antonio Center in Ceuta reported the most serious instances of abuse, but even children at smaller centers reported beatings and insults at the hands of staff. "They treated me badly," Khalil M. said of staff at the Avecina Center in Melilla. "They insulted me, they hit me, there were kids fighting there and they hit me too."76
Salah S. described his punishment for fighting with another child at Purísima Concepción Fort in October 2001. "Last Sunday I was hit and kicked on my calves by a fat guard and a thin guard. One kicked my legs out from under me and the other held me by my shirt and slapped me with an open hand. . . . They are the educadores [educators]." Overhearing us when we asked another boy about the term "educators," Mamduh H. said, "Educators? They're the ones who give beatings."77
In October 2001, staff at Purísima Concepción Fort forced children to wait outside for hours after a child stole a sheet. "Because of one small boy none of us knew, we were all forced to go outside without blankets in the cold," said Salah S., fourteen. "Eventually they let us in, one by one or in small groups of three or four. I was let in at about 1 a.m. I don't know how long the others stayed outside."78 Munsif M. told us, "Everybody had to go outside. We couldn't sleep."79
Several youth told us that staff hit them after they attempted to escape. For example, Wafiq H., thirteen, said, "One time we escaped, three of us, when a boy took a piece of metal and broke the door [of the punishment room]. One of the older boys caught us and hit us. They took us and put us in another room and locked the door and then [one of the educators] came and hit us with a baton like the police use. He hit me on the head and the face and leg."80
Finally, we heard reports that some staff at the San Antonio center threaten children with expulsion to Morocco as a means of control. "The educators aren't good people," said Omar H. "They don't behave well with the kids. They have a system-if they catch you [misbehaving] the first time, the second time, the third time. The third time, to the border. They really do it. They just threw out two kids two days ago."81 Asked to describe a bad educator, Shawqi M. said, "For example, one might say, `I'm going to take you to the border-you're more than fifteen years old."82 While we were unable to verify independently that staff had actually caused a child to be expelled for disciplinary reasons, we found the use of threats of expulsion extremely troubling.
Almost all the children we spoke to in Ceuta described spending time in a "punishment cell," a small, dark, filthy room with only a few mattresses and no toilet. Following a 2000 complaint by the Office of the Ombudsman, officials at San Antonio said they had improved the room, adding light and a window.
But when we spoke with children who had been in the room in the month prior to our interviews in November 2001, they described conditions that raised serious concerns. Majid A., quoted above, told us of being locked in an overcrowded room in which younger and older children were mixed.83 Wafiq H., who spent three days in the room at the end of October 2001, said, "It's very bad. The beds are ripped up. Everybody is very crowded. You don't eat well. It's very bad for you. There were eight of us in the cell. You can't leave. If you need to go to the bathroom, you go in a spot on the floor or in a pail."84
Officials told us that the room was used solely for intake. "There is a special room there for children who come very late at night, so that they don't disrupt the others," fiscal Juan Luís Puerta Martí told us. "I don't know how long they stay there. I assume they are released in the morning, but I don't know."85
According to children in San Antonio, however, the room was also used to punish children, particularly those who escaped and were brought back to San Antonio. "They put you in the cell if you escape," said Majid A. 86 "One of the educators, if you escape during his watch, he puts you in there if he's on duty when the police bring you back." Some staff also used the room to punish other infractions. "They put you in the punishment cell if you're fighting, or even if you're not doing anything," said Wafiq H., age thirteen.87 "They put a lot of kids there. A lot. Loads. It's for those that escape, caught smoking, things like that," said `Abd al Hadi S., fourteen. "They take you to the punishment cell. Sometimes that happens when you leave without permission."88
The length of stay in the punishment room ranged from three days to one week. Some children were held with three or four other children, some with as many as nine others. "The number of kids in the cell depends on what the police bring," Majid A. said.89
Residential center staff do not closely monitor the room. "Everybody fights in the cell," said Majid A.90 In fact, staff members leave some tasks, like bringing food and water, to older children at the center. "The big kids bring the food to the room. The window has openings in the bars and they pass the food to you," said Sulayman S.91 As a result, younger, smaller children lose out when mattresses and food are in short supply.
Several children complained that when those in the punishment room ask for assistance, staff ignore them. Wafiq H., thirteen, told us, "If you have to go to the bathroom you call for someone and if they don't come you go in your pants. There is no shower."92 "You call, and the guards don't come," said Sulayman S., fourteen. "You're left alone, and you start to cry."93
Physical Conditions in the Centers
Conditions are especially bad in the two largest centers, the San Antonio Center in Ceuta and the Purísima Concepción Fort in Melilla. Both facilities are converted military installations located at a distance from their respective city centers.
Ceuta opened the San Antonio Center in July 1999. A June 2001 press report cites Mohammad Chaib, the director of Ceuta's Department of Social Welfare, as saying that the center housed sixty-eight children in accommodation intended for fifty-five.95 In November 2001, the department's deputy director gave us even higher numbers, telling us, "There are ninety to one hundred children in San Antonio. It varies depending on the season."96
Children who had stayed at San Antonio described the facility as overcrowded, dirty, and lacking in privacy. Wafiq H., thirteen, estimated that "there were 100 kids there, more or less" during one stay at San Antonio in September 2001.97 "When I first got there, I slept with two sheets on the floor and another one to cover me," he said. "About fifteen days later, a boy gave me his place. He went to go sleep with the older kids, the kids who are fifteen and sixteen. There were about twelve of us in the room, including the four on the floor."98 Ra`id I. told us it was so crowded "I spent the night once in the dining hall, a few months ago. We slept on the tables. Six of us slept on the tables that time."99
With the exception of very long-term residents, children said they had to change bed assignments every night. "Those who have been there a long time have their own beds," Shawqi M. said. "We have a sheet, that's all, a very thin one. We just sleep on the floor, without a mattress or anything."100
Overcrowding was still severe when we interviewed Wafiq H. in early November 2001. He told us, "Yesterday...there were six kids in two beds in the room. The room is about fifteen feet by ten feet and has a door and a window."101
In May 2001, El País announced it had obtained a report by the Ceuta Department of Public Health that condemned unsanitary conditions at San Antonio. According to El País, the report "highlights, among other deficiencies in the San Antonio center, insufficient ventilation in rooms, with mattresses on the floor without bedding in some cases and extremely dirty bedding in other cases, systematic breakage of windows and window panes, an accumulation of urine in the bathrooms, with broken drains that empty sewage directly onto the floor, broken toilets, organic and inorganic waste in cisterns, etc."102 Children we spoke with in October and November 2001 echoed many of these complaints, adding that bathroom facilities were inadequate for the number of residents and that children are not separated by age. "The bathroom is far away, and there is only one, for the big kids and the small kids," said Wafiq H. "Everybody goes in at the same time in the morning," and children use a pail in their rooms at night instead of the bathroom, he added.103
Some children spoke of ongoing construction of new residential units (módulos nuevos) at San Antonio, some of which had newly opened. "The new modules are the ones they're going to open," Atta A. told us. According to his description, each of the three planned modules will hold twenty-one youth.104 Only a few children had ever stayed in the newly opened facilities, and we were unable to determine how children were chosen to stay in them. "Only the kids who have been there the longest use them, the same ones that are going to school," said Fares S., age fourteen. "There are about ten, more or less. They're all about nineteen or twenty years old."105
The smaller of the two centers, Purísima Concepción Fort was opened in February 2001. In October 2001 it housed twenty-four boys and six girls, although it had beds for only twenty-five children.106
Melilla's fiscal for minors told us in October 2001 that he last visited Purísima Concepción Fort in July 2001. "In Purísima the section for the girls is very good-it is in a smaller space-but the boys' section is not good."107 The director general of Melilla's Department of Social Welfare and Health told Human Rights Watch that the department planned to eventually close several smaller centers and move children to Purísima Concepción Fort, which would be expanded.108
Spanish law guarantees foreign children the right to health care on the same basis as Spanish nationals.110 In practice, unaccompanied migrant children's access to health care varies tremendously. The situation is especially bad in Ceuta, where children we interviewed reported being denied care arbitrarily by staff at both public health clinics and residential centers.
Residential centers provide the majority of medical care unaccompanied migrant children receive. Based on our interviews, none of the residential centers in Ceuta and Melilla appear to have doctors on the premises, and nurses are not always available.111 We found no evidence that centers were providing routine preventive care, maintaining files with children's medical histories, or even providing routine medical examinations upon entry. "They take your name and they pat you down," Majid A. said. "That's it."112
In the absence of regular visits by doctors, children's access to health care is dependent on residential centers staff's ability to recognize medical problems and their willingness to arrange for children to see doctors. Thus, some children we interviewed had received extended, specialized medical care, but other children's high fevers or fractures went untreated. According to one activist, when children at the San Antonio Center contracted tuberculosis in early July 2001, only those children who showed active symptoms received testing and treatment.113
Sulayman S. told us that during the year he stayed at San Antonio, "I never went to the doctor," and only once did he see a doctor come to the center. "The doctor pulled up our pants to look at our feet and legs and looked at our chests," he said, but made no other examination. Sulayman later became ill with a high fever and vomiting. "I told them I wanted a doctor and they gave me yogurt and a pill and I stayed like that for three days. There were lots of other kids who got sick while I was there," he added. "Kids that were sick for days."114 Majid A. told us he had seen a doctor "many times, when I had a fever or hurt my head." When we asked how residential center staff decided when to take children to a doctor, he said "They take you to the doctor when you are very sick and it shows. Other times you just see a nurse."115
Other children at the same center reported receiving medical care on various occasions, but complained that it was of poor quality and sometimes arbitrarily denied. Shihab R.'s arm was in a cast, the left side of his face was swollen, and his cheek was visibly red and infected at the site of partially removed stitches when we interviewed him in November 2001.116 The swelling was due to an infected tooth he said, "but they won't do anything about it." Recently the swelling became worse after a youth cut him with a knife and the nurse at San Antonio failed to remove all the stitches. Police had fractured Shihab's hand a few days earlier when taking him into custody, but "San Antonio didn't do anything," he said. His fracture was not treated until he appealed to a religious group, the Carmelite Sisters of Charity of Vedruna, who took him to the Red Cross Hospital.117
Under Spanish law, unaccompanied migrant children also are eligible to receive health services through the Spanish national health system, even when they lack legal residency, by presenting a government issued national health card (tarjeta sanitaria). In Ceuta and Melilla, these services are provided through the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs' National Institute of Health (Instituto Nacional de la Salud, INSALUD).
According to INSALUD guidelines, an unaccompanied minor who is a ward of the state can apply for the health card by presenting personal data verified by the Department of Social Welfare, while a child who is not a ward of the state can present a passport, a report by Social Services, or a report by the Social Worker in the health district.118
While some children we interviewed in Melilla appeared to have national health cards, only one child we interviewed in Ceuta, Majid A., told us that he did have a card that he thought was a health card, issued by San Antonio and used when he went to the doctor.119 The fiscal for minors in Ceuta told Human Rights Watch, "If a child is in a center he has a sanitaria card, and the center is responsible for arranging it. A child cannot get a card at the hospital, only at San Antonio."120
`Ala H. gives his age as thirteen but he looks younger.121 When he arrived in Ceuta in the last quarter of 2000, police took him to the Mediterráneo Center, a residential center for children age ten and younger. Although he stayed at the Mediterráneo Center for three months before running away, he has never been issued a health card. `Ala says he would like to return to the Mediterráneo Center, but the staff there have refused to readmit him. Police have taken him to the San Antonio Center several times but he refuses to stay there "because the big kids hit us," he says. Instead, he lives on the street, sleeping with other boys and youths among the rocks of the breakwater near the port.
When we interviewed `Ala in November 2001 he was barefoot and dressed only in a cotton t-shirt, thin sweatshirt, and sweatpants, despite the cold. He had been ill since September 2001 "from sniffing solvent," he said.
In September 2001, Sister Ana María Moreno Pérez, a Carmelite nun who operates an outreach program for street children, took `Ala to a Red Cross emergency room. Emergency room staff treated him for a high fever and discharged him the same day.122 `Ala's condition grew worse, and in October 2001 Sister Ana took him to the emergency room again, where he was diagnosed as suffering from a variety of health problems, including anemia, and discharged again. "After that we took him to the health center, but he didn't have a health card," so the clinic refused to treat him, Sister Ana said. "The health center will take him if an educator [at the residential center] brings him in, but not if I take him." Nevertheless, when she convinced a staff person from the San Antonio Center to accompany her when she again took the boy to the health clinic, he was refused treatment. "The doctor told me, `I will not treat this child until he is in a center because it won't do any good unless he is in a center," she told us.123 `Ala was not receiving medical care and was still visibly ill when we interviewed him in November 2001.
Activists and children in Ceuta told us it was common for hospitals and clinics there to refuse to provide unaccompanied migrant children with medical care if the children do not have the health card or are not accompanied by residential center staff. This was the case even when children were seriously ill, had previously received medical care, and were known to medical staff.
Sixteen-year-old `Abd al Samad R. has been in Ceuta for about five years, including two and a half years living at the San Antonio Center. While at San Antonio he was diagnosed as suffering from renal disease, a potentially life-threatening medical condition, and he received medical treatment.124 Then, in October 2001 he was told to leave San Antonio, apparently for disciplinary infractions. When we interviewed `Abd al Samad on November 8, 2001, he was living with a group of other children and youth in makeshift hovels squeezed between a breakwater and piles of ceramic tiles and other building supplies. He had received no medical treatment since leaving San Antonio, although he was frequently in severe pain. "The pain comes often, when it is cold, or when someone hits me," he said. "I tried to go to the hospital when I was in pain but they wouldn't admit me. They won't accept you at the hospital unless some one from San Antonio comes with you. When the pain comes I can't move so who will come to take me to the hospital?" 125
On November 9, 2001 children staying at the San Antonio Center informed `Abd al Samad that he had been scheduled for surgery on November 10, 2001 and that he should return to the center. When he went to San Antonio that night, he was refused admission. Carmelite nuns familiar with the case notified the fiscal for minors that `Abd al Samad was again being denied medical care because hospital staff would refuse to treat him unless he was accompanied by residential center staff. The fiscal then ordered his hospitalization; `Abd al Samad was only admitted to the San Antonio Center for recuperation after the fiscal issued a second order to guarantee his admission.126
The vast majority of unaccompanied migrant children in Ceuta127 and many children in Melilla are not enrolled in school even though Spanish law provides for compulsory education for children age six to sixteen, including foreign children.128 The education children do receive varies considerably. Only a few children in Melilla attend courses with Spanish children, and none of the children in Ceuta appeared to attend such courses. The deputy director of Ceuta's Department of Welfare told us, "Some children go to school and others are receiving a more basic education in the center and may then go on to the school level."129
The government's reliance on residential center staff to provide basic education is troubling. Low-quality basic education is a barrier to advancement to regular coursework in Spanish public schools and deprives children of the Spanish language and literacy skills needed to understand and demand rights guaranteed them under Spanish law, including the ability to present effectively complaints about abuses. Statements by government officials also suggest that children's fluency in Spanish is a key determinant in decisions regarding residency and citizenship.130
Although children in both Ceuta and Melilla use the term "educators" (educadores) to refer to the staff responsible for the day to day running of the residential centers, Department of Social Welfare officials could not tell Human Rights Watch what, if any, qualifications they require of residential center staff. Activists in both cities told us the primary requirement appears to be knowledge of the dialect of the Berber language spoken in northern Morocco.
Officials in both Ceuta and Melilla told Human Rights Watch that unaccompanied migrant children in their care receive education. However, our interviews with children indicate that this is often not the case. `Abd al Samad R. spent two and one half years at San Antonio before being expelled in October 2001; his comments were typical of children we interviewed. "I studied for a year, starting a year and a half after I entered San Antonio," he said. "There weren't studies at the center before that."131 In addition, several children in Ceuta told us that only older children were allowed to attend classes. "No, we don't go to school," said fourteen-year-old Sulayman S. "Just sometimes we paint, and that's it. Only the bigger kids go to school."132 Sixteen-year-old Omar H. said the "older kids" who attended classes were "the ones who are about eighteen." 133 Musa Y. also said education was limited to "the older kids. After a while they're supposed to have it for the younger ones."134
Children said San Antonio staff sometimes denied education to those accused of bad behavior, including running away. "They chose those for study from among the ones who had been there longer and had good behavior," `Abd al Samad said. "Bad behavior was hitting, or running away."135 Majid A. said, "You have to be here for a long time to be able to go to school, five months or something, without escaping."136
Under Spanish law, children's right to a free, compulsory education ends with the completion of ten years of basic education.137 Normally, basic education begins at age six, and continues until age sixteen, although the law permits children who have not finished the ten-year program to remain in school until age eighteen.138
We met no children over the age of sixteen enrolled in basic education courses, although the vast majority had completed less than six years of education in Morocco. Of those who were receiving education, all of the children we spoke to over the age of sixteen were enrolled in vocational educational courses. One seventeen-year-old who was attending a vocational training course in gardening in Melilla told us his request to attend regular classes had been denied. "They told me no, I couldn't go," said Munsif M. "I want to go. I want to learn to speak Spanish well." He had attended ten years of school in Morocco.139
Children who qualify for vocational education may be prevented from participating in the practical portion of those classes if they lack the required work permit. `Abd al `Aziz R., another seventeen-year-old enrolled in a vocational training course in Melilla, told us that he would not be able to complete the practical training portion of the course unless the government issued him a work permit.140
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs' secretary general for social affairs told Human Rights Watch that her ministry automatically issues work permits to children with residency documents if the Department of Social Welfare applies for them. "It is impossible that children who are in this situation [unaccompanied minors] would not get work permits," she said. "The Ministry cannot deny work permits if the Department of Social Welfare asks for them and the conditions are met. There is a nine-month period to wait to make sure that the child does not return to its family. The nine months should include the period before August 1st  but that is not within our competencies."141
Lack of Recreational Space and Leisure-time Activities
The San Antonio Center has no dedicated outdoor recreation space. When Human Rights Watch visited Ceuta in July 2001, we observed barefoot children from the center walking in the area directly adjacent to the building, which was covered in trash, including broken glass and bits of rusted metal. This area had been cleaned when we visited again in November 2001, but it was still too small to serve as recreation space for the large number of children staying at the center.
Children who had stayed at San Antonio described days of unrelieved boredom. Ihab J., sixteen, had been in San Antonio seven times, for periods ranging from one day to one week, during his five months in Ceuta. Describing his typical day at the center, he said, "You clean whatever there is to clean; you eat. You wash the dishes. There aren't any activities, except sometimes you'll play soccer or basketball."143 The games he referred to are organized by Carmelite nuns working with unaccompanied migrant children in Ceuta, and take place at a public soccer field near the port, a far distance from the San Antonio Center.
"People don't do anything," Munib I. said. "There's not even a chance to learn. There aren't any studies or vocational training. Breakfast is at nine, then you clean a little, then do nothing. Lunch is at one. You clean and then do nothing. The merienda [a light early evening meal] is at six or six-thirty, maybe seven. We clean a little, then we do nothing. Dinner is at ten-we clean and then do nothing."144 Sulayman S. said, "You don't go outside. You sit in front of the window looking out at the sea. . . . There's nothing to do."145
More generally, almost every child we spoke to in Ceuta and Melilla complained that clothing provided by the residential centers was insufficient and poor quality. Children we interviewed in October and November 2001 were poorly dressed for the cold weather, typically wearing some combination of one or two cotton t-shirts or a t-shirt and a sweat shirt and light cotton pants or sweat pants.
Human Rights Watch was unable to independently verify the use of pork products in meals prepared for children at residential centers. Given the large numbers of Muslim children in these facilities, residential centers should ensure that if meals do include pork products children are notified of this fact, and children who do not eat pork for religious reasons are provided with suitable nutritious alternatives.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that children are entitled to special care and protection and that the best interest of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children. Under article 19 of the convention, children have the right to protection from "all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.150
Article 19 of the convention protects children from private acts of violence as harassment as well as from acts committed by state agents; by the provision's terms, the state's obligation to protect extends to "all forms" of violence or neglect committed against a child while the child is in the care of another person. For example, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has relied on this provision to call for state action to address violence or threats of violence by children against other children in schools and other institutions.151
In addition, both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.152
Children enjoy the right to education. As with other economic, social, and cultural rights, the right to education may be achieved progressively. A state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights agrees "to take steps . . . to the maximum of its available resources" to realize the right to education.153
Fundamental to the right to education is the state's obligation to provide it in a nondiscriminatory manner. The right to freedom from discrimination in education flows from the nondiscrimination provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.154 It is explicitly guaranteed in the Convention against Discrimination in Education, which Spain ratified in 1969.155 As the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has observed, the right to freedom from discrimination in education "is subject to neither progressive realization nor the availability of resources; it applies fully and immediately to all aspects of education and encompasses all internationally prohibited grounds of discrimination."156
Under the Convention against Discrimination in Education, states undertake "[t]o give foreign nationals resident within their territory the same access to education as that given to their own nationals."157 The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has interpreted the principle of nondiscrimination to extend "to all persons of school age residing in the territory of a State party, including non-nationals, and irrespective of their legal status."158
Finally, children have the right "to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and the rehabilitation of health."159 The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires state parties to "strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services."160
In ensuring these rights for unaccompanied migrant children in residential centers, Spanish authorities should be guided by many of the principles set forth in the U.N. Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty. While the U.N. Rules are not directly applicable to unaccompanied migrant children in residential centers-they are intended to serve as "convenient standards of reference and to provide encouragement and guidance to professionals involved in the management of the juvenile justice system"161-the rules address many issues related to the management of youth facilities that are also faced by those who are charged with providing residential care for unaccompanied migrant children.
50 See Organic Law 4/2000, of January 11, Regarding the Rights and Freedoms of Foreign Nationals Living in Spain and Their Social Integration, article 35, as amended by Organic Law 8/2000, of December 22, Reforming Organic Law 4/2000 (Spain); Royal Decree 864/2001, of July 20, Approving the Implementing Regulation for Organic Law 4/2000, of January 11, on the Rights and Liberties of Foreign Nationals in Spain and Their Social Integration, Reformed by Organic Law 8/2000, of December 22, article 62 (Spain).
51 In addition to the San Antonio Center, which provides care for unaccompanied foreign children age eleven and over, the Mediterráneo Center, a residential care facility for younger Spanish children, accepts unaccompanied foreign children age ten and younger.
52 According to Prodein, the number of unaccompanied migrant children living on the street in Melilla increased following a series of expulsions that began on July 27, 2001. Human Rights Watch interview with José Palazón, president, Prodein, Melilla, Spain, October 22, 2001.
53 In Melilla we made our request to the the Department of Social Welfare and the fiscal for minors. In Ceuta, we made our requests to the Department of Social Welfare, the office of the Presidency, the delegate of the central government, the judge for minors, and the fiscal for minors.
58 Human Rights Watch interview, Ceuta, Spain, November 6, 2001. A copy of his November 2, 2001 INSALUD medical report diagnosing a "stable fracture of the second metacarpal, left hand" is on file with Human Rights Watch.
74 Human Rights Watch interview, Ceuta, Spain, November 7, 2001. Abbas A. reported that the staff would tell children, "Búscate la vida si puedes," literally, "seek your life if you can." We heard this phrase often from the children we interviewed; they used it to mean, "You need to look out for yourself" or "you have to fend for yourself."
109 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Pablo Traspas, projects coordinator, Médecins sans Frontières, March 14, 2002. In February 2002 Médecins sans Frontières' 4 Mundo program began preliminary research for a one-year project to improve care and protection of unaccompanied migrant children in Ceuta. The project will focus on improving children's access to medical care and social services.
111 Children generally used the term "nurses" to describe staff at residential centers who provided medical care and "doctors" to describe staff at medical clinics or hospitals. Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm these individuals' medical qualifications.
118 The health card is valid for at least nine months, unless the child turns eighteen before that date. Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs, "Qué tengo que hacer para tener la tarjeta sanitaria?," http://www.msc.es/ insalud/preguntas/tarjeta.htm (accessed February 25, 2001).
121 According to Sister Ana María Moreno Pérez, a forensic exam in October 2001 found `Ala to be between eleven and twelve years old. Human Rights Watch interview with Sister Ana María Moreno Pérez, Ceuta, Spain, November 6, 2001.
122 Human Rights Watch researchers reviewed a copy of the emergency room doctor's report, dated September 30, 2001, which showed the child had a fever of 39.3 degrees Centigrade (approximately 103 degrees Fahrenheit) and tested positive for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana.
124 Nuns familiar with his case confirmed that he had traveled to mainland Spain for medical treatment not available in Ceuta. Human Rights Watch interviews with Sister Ana María Moreno Pérez, Ceuta, Spain, November 5-6, 2001.
127 According to the Ceuta Diocesan Commission on Migration (Comisión Diocesana de Migraciones de Ceuta), of a total of seventy children resident in the San Antonio center, twenty-three attend on a regular basis a transitional school program at a school in Ceuta, including ten children over the age of sixteen who take vocational courses at an Institute. Children and activists gave us similar attendance figures but gave higher figures for the number of children staying in San Antonio. Comisión Diocesana de Migraciones de Ceuta, cited in Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, Los niños de la calle en Ceuta: racismo y desamparo (Seville: Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, 2001), p. 12.
128 Spanish law provides, "All foreigners under the age of eighteen years have the right and the obligation to education under the same conditions as Spaniards, a right which comprises access to a basic, free, and obligatory education, the obtainment of the corresponding academic degrees, and access to the public scholarship and aid system." Organic Law 4/2000, article 9(1), as amended by Organic Law 8/2000. Under article 5 of Organic Law 1/1990, of October 3, General Organization of the Educational System, Boletín Oficial del Estado, No. 238, October 4, 1990 (Spain), basic education consists of ten years of schooling beginning at age six and extending through age sixteen. Article 10 of Organic Law 1/1996 guarantees foreign children the right to education, health care, and other public services, and Article 1(3) of Organic Law 8/1985, of July 3, Regulating the Right to Education, Boletín Oficial del Estado, No. 159, July 4, 1985 (Spain), guarantees foreigners resident in Spain the right to receive basic education.
152 See International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), articles 7 and 24, opened for signature December 19, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force March 23, 1976); Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, article 16, adopted December 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85 (entered into force June 26, 1987).
154 See Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 2(1); ICCPR, article 2(1); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, article 2(2); and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, article 2, opened for signature March 7, 1966, 660 U.N.T.S. 195 (entered into force January 4, 1969).
155 Convention against Discrimination in Education, adopted December 14, 1960, 429 U.N.T.S. 93 (entered into force May 22, 1962). On the right to nondiscrimination in education, see generally Human Rights Watch, Second Class: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel's Schools (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001), pp. 162-64.