Under international and Spanish law unaccompanied migrant children, as children, are entitled to protection and care regardless of their residency status. This report has documented serious abuses against these children in two Spanish autonomous cities and in Morocco. Spanish police abused children when apprehending them and during summary expulsions, and summary expulsions from Spain put children at risk of police abuse and neglect in Morocco. Unaccompanied migrant children were often denied care and protection in Spain based on arbitrary age determination procedures. Those who were placed in residential care in Spain frequently faced abusive disciplinary practices, abuse by other children, substandard physical conditions in some centers, arbitrary denial of access to education, and arbitrary denial of access to health care. In Morocco, children returned from Ceuta and Melilla were frequently detained and abused by police, then left to fend for themselves, living on the streets. Both Spain and Morocco failed to provide mechanisms to ensure children's rights were respected, including the right to be heard in all administrative or judicial procedures affecting them. The frequency and nature of the abuses in both countries point to serious structural obstacles to children's enjoyment of their rights.
In Spain the Departments of Social Welfare, as legal guardians charged with protecting unaccompanied migrant children's interests, bear direct responsibility for the human rights violations these children suffer in Ceuta and Melilla, but they are not alone in this responsibility. Spanish officials at all levels of government have failed to ensure unaccompanied migrant children's rights are guaranteed, and have allowed serious abuses to go uninvestigated and unprosecuted. The central government's failure to provide effective mechanisms for coordination and oversight of the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children in Ceuta and Melilla raise serious concerns about its ability to guarantee respect for the rights of children in other autonomous regions.
In Morocco, the government has failed to make clear provisions in law and in practice for the care and protection of unaccompanied migrant children. This lack of care and the government's failure to investigate and prosecute cases of police abuse of children returned from Spain has contributed to a view that these children are deserving of punishment, and not the care and rehabilitation they are entitled to under international law. The government's failure to provide adequate, appropriate rehabilitative facilities for children leads many children to live on the street, where they are vulnerable to a host of other serious abuses, and contributes to the pressures that lead some children to undertake repeated dangerous journeys abroad.