Spain violated education right of a child living in Melilla, UN committee finds

OHCHR

Spain violated the right to education of an eight-year old Moroccan boy in Melilla for not immediately admitting him to public school after his residency in the Spanish territory was confirmed, the UN Child Rights Committee (CRC) has found.

A.E.A. was born to a Moroccan mother in Melilla in 2013 and has been living in the Spanish enclave ever since. When he was six, A.E.A.’s mother tried to send him to school but the authorities did not recognize their residency. Despite several judicial proceedings, both local administrative and judicial authorities refused to allow A.E.A to attend public school.

His mother filed a complaint with the CRC in March 2020. Eight months later, the police confirmed that A.E.A and his family lived in Melilla. Even though national legislation recognizes resident children have the right to education, the local authorities still refused to let the boy attend school, arguing that there was no evidence he had legal residence permit.

The dispute was resolved in March this year when the Spanish education ministry ordered the local authorities to allow A.E.A. to be admitted to school. By then, he had missed out almost two years of formal education.

“We welcome the decision to admit A.E.A. to school. However, this came too late and does not fully remedy the harm caused by his prolonged absence from school”, said Committee member Luis Pedernera. “All children have the right to education, regardless of their legal status or their parents’. A.E.A should have been able to learn in a classroom and make friends with other children of his age, even though he is not a Spanish national”, he added.

The CRC found Spain violated A.E.A’s rights by not taking swift action to verify his residency in Melilla, and by not admitting him to the public education system immediately after it was confirmed that he indeed lived in Melilla.

The Committee urged the State party to provide A.E.A. with adequate compensation, and to take proactive steps to help him to catch up at school.

“Even though Spanish law guarantees education to all resident children, regardless of their administrative status, A.E.A. and most other children without legal residency permits in Melilla are facing de facto obstacles that prevent their schooling. This amounts to discrimination in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Mr. Pedernera added.

The Committee last year welcomed Spain’s prompt decision to let a 12-year old Moroccan girl enrol in a local school. So far six children who have filed complaints with the Committee have by now been admitted to school. However, it is estimated that over 150 children without legal residency in Melilla remain excluded from the public education system.

To prevent similar violations, the Committee is calling on Spain to ensure that local administrative and judicial authorities take effective and expeditious steps to confirm a child’s residence and admit him or her to the public school system without delay.

The full decision by the Committee is now available online.

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