Coming to Spain was “A Matter of Life or Death”

Khalid was 16 years old when he arrived in Spain to escape from poverty. (Mar Baró)

Khalid Suleman, an unaccompanied foreign minor, talks about his trip from Ghana to build his new life in Spain

He is timid and has trouble expressing himself in Spanish. However, he speaks perfect English. Khalid is a 17-year-old boy from Ghana who arrived in the Iberic Peninsula on a boat at the age of 16. He left behind his brothers and the family. His parents passed away when he was a toddler. “I was unemployed, and my family is very poor”, he said.

Khalid now lives in Centro de Primera Acogida Antares, a shelter that takes in unaccompanied minors in Lleida. He has the complexion of a child, yet his features reflect his hardships. He lived and slept on the streets, subsisting on what he could.

Life in Ghana was difficult so he decided to leave the country with a friend to pursue a worthier life. It took them six months to reach Morocco. They crossed Mali and Argelia on a bus. They travelled by train when they had money, and hitchhiked or walked when there was nothing left in their pockets. In Argelia, he was a victim of racism. However, Khalid was brave and positive enough to accomplish his dream.

 

Travelling to Spain on a Boat was his “Only Way Out”

Khalid now lives in ‘Centro de Primera Acogida Antares’ where 50 other unaccompanied minors reside. (Mar Baró)

In Argelia, he separated from his companion and took on the journey alone. During his time in Oujda (Morocco), he encountered another Ghanaian who introduced him to the people who organised the boats to sail to Spain on a boat. “I thought of it as my only way out. It was my moment. It was a matter of life or death”, he affirmed.

He paid the traffickers the little money he had left. He recalled gazing up towards the sky; “I had to look at the ocean twice before taking my first step on the boat. I was full of fear and the water was turbulent with fury”.

“I thought of my parents, my brothers and my country. I was leaving it all behind in search of new opportunities. I was tired of suffering and so I stepped in”, he explained. There were no lifeguards and they sailed for 20 hours in the stormy sea.

Khalid described the cold, humidity, and screaming of the little children with their mothers. He was hopeless. However, suddenly, they reached the shore. “I couldn’t believe it, I had arrived in Spain”, he said.

 

An NGO Came to The Rescue on The Sea Shore

The number of unaccompanied minors registered in Spain doubled between the months of April and October of 2018. (Mar Baró)

ARed Cross came to the rescue the boat and took the passengers to the police station where he stayed for three days. He was then transferred to Ciudad Real where he lived in an apartment for three months. “Thanks to the NGO Movimiento Porla Paz, I felt that my trip was worth it for the first time, and that I was finally home in that apartment,” he added.

He was later transferred to Barcelona, where he lived for three weeks before going to the Centro de Primera Acogida Antares. Now, everything has changed: 50 minors between the ages of 14 and 17 live in the center and in similar situations.

The center’s management explains that it is expected to turn the center into “a platform of integration”. It organizes several activities, such as workshops and games. Some attend high school, and their teachers say they have an excellent behaviour. They expect to integrate into society and find employment to compensate their efforts. “I don’t want any sympathy from anyone. We must stay positive. Always do good and one day that goodness will come back to you,” he concludes.

 

Unaccompanied Minors in Spain

On April 30th, 2018, a total of 6,248 unaccompanied minors had been registered in Spain. Six months later, in October, this number doubled. A record of 12,500 children whom, like Khalid, sought a better future in the country. Spain is now the European country that receives the most refugees, followed by Italy and Greece.

The increasing numbers have caused some reception centers to collapse. The government made the decision to give more money to the Spanish regional governments to cover their needs. In contrast, the government has also agreed to return Moroccan minors who arrive in Spain alone. The Moroccan minors account for 70% of unaccompanied minors in Spain.

Organizations such as the Red Española de Inmigración and Ayuda al Refugiado complained. They say this decision goes against the international rights of children and oppresses children whose personal situations are not always considered.

Feature developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Communication and International Relations Blanquerna-URL

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