How many migrant children and adolescents who have arrived to the Islands without the support of an adult are currently under the guardianship of the Government of the Canary Islands?
There are about 2,500 minors. Of these, 1,983 are sheltered in the resources of the Autonomous Community and some 600 in resources of the island councils.
The previous team of the Ministry repeatedly insisted that the reception system was at the limit. How is the situation being managed to care for the children who have arrived in recent weeks? Is the reception network collapsed?
No. It is true that in El Hierro and Tenerife we lacked resources, but we have opened two new first reception centers, which serve as transit to later transfer them to other islands with places available. In Tenerife we are working with collaborating entities to open three new centers, two with 100 places, which will be operational this month, and the third center will have 120 places.
Is hosting by Canarian families being encouraged?
Yes, we are working on that possibility. The current law contemplates that the care of minors must be deinstitutionalized. Once they are declared homeless, we work to ensure that they have a more stable and familiar resource, not that they are in foster care.
Have you received a response from the Ministry of Social Rights regarding the request to resume referrals to other communities?
We are waiting for that meeting to take place, because it is a Ministry on which both the financing and the territorial distribution of minors depend. A distribution that we are going to demand to be completed, although all the autonomous communities are not sensitive to this transfer.
Taking into account parameters such as population, income per capita and the unemployment rate. What would be the ideal number of children in care for the Canary Islands?
Right now the system is overflowing again. It would be necessary to return to the figures from before this rebound in migratory flows. On December 31, 2022, there were 2,181 minors in the Canary Islands and centers were closed. The ideal figure would be zero, but to achieve this, work must be done on the ground with the countries of origin.
At what point are the procedures to transform emergency centers into stable centers?
The General Intervention is being informed to prepare the bases of the contract for the provision of these services. Our intention is that by the end of this year they will be awarded, in order to have these stable centers, with between 20 and 30 places, that allow working with minors in a more welcoming environment. The length of stay is usually three years, since the average age of the children who arrive is 14 or 15 years old. There are three years in which the autonomous community has to face the economic cost of their care and work to integrate them from an educational point of view and in the active search for a job with which they can emancipate themselves.
Do you have any plans to open new emergency centers in the coming months or are you going to look for solutions as more resources are needed?
Negotiations have already been made with collaborating entities that have closed resources, since last year the migratory flow was lower. Right now there are about 200 free places in Gran Canaria, which allow us to respond to the arrivals that are taking place in Tenerife and El Hierro.
Does the General Directorate have any protocol to address the mental health of children and adolescents who enter the Islands irregularly?
Yes. There are specialized resources to deal with these circumstances. In Gran Canaria, for example, Fortaleza 1 is dedicated to the most disruptive profiles or those with a specific deficiency that needs different attention.
Will the Ministry work to facilitate the family reunification of minors who have their parents in other parts of Europe?
I have been lucky enough to transfer two girls to a Red Cross resource in France where their parents were; and there is a child waiting in a similar situation. The objective is that if they have a family that this reunification takes place.
What do you have planned for teenagers who come of age and remain on the streets?
Last year we worked with 550 young people, of which 33% (183) were migrants who came from reception resources and who decided to integrate into transition programs to adult life. I have found a series of projects that are financed with the European Social Fund, which has allowed this work with formerly cared for minors. Throughout 2024 we will implement a housing solution that allows former wards to advance in their lives until they are independent.
In addition to those 550 young people, were some former guardians left outside the system because there are not enough resources to care for them all?
The ideal is that many return to their family environment once the measures that have been applied to them end. Others directly enter the labor market and continue their lives because they do not need to be in these types of programs to complete their life project. For next year, within the personal income tax subsidy line there is a section for entities to work on the full emancipation of former wards. We are working to launch our own line from the General Directorate in 2024, as we want to be even greater support for children who come of age and who may feel lost. That is one of the pending tasks that this General Directorate has and in which it has to improve the grade.
How many adolescents are awaiting bone tests to determine their age?
This information is complicated, because at this moment all those who have arrived in this last wave are pending. I can tell you that the arrival of minors has increased by 60% compared to the same period last year.
How many do you suspect are adults who have declared themselves minors?
70% of those who have arrived in recent weeks may be of legal age, which will allow us to vacate places in the centers. Last week we transferred 40 children, of which 31 we have reported that they are obviously older.
What percentage of minors are in school?
90% of the minors taken in are in school or in training and 10% are working.
Children receive different attention depending on the center in which they are integrated. Do you plan to develop a manual of minimum standards to offer similar treatment to everyone?
That was one of the shortcomings that caught my attention. I understand that the immigration crisis and the urgency of caring for minors has led to entities working without a protocol. We are working on some specifications to standardize everything that involves care in reception and accompaniment; as well as the audit to see that the service is being provided correctly.