On June 14, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) found that Spain violated the right to education of an eight-year old Moroccan boy in Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, for not taking the appropriate and timely action to confirm his residency in territory, and for not immediately admitting him to public school after his residency was confirmed.
A.E.A was born to a Morrocan mother in Melilla in 2013, and has lived in the territory all his life. At age six - the age at which compulsory schooling begins in Spain - his mother attempted to enrol him at school but was prevented as the authorities did not recognise their residency.
The issue revolves around the inscription in the local census; without regular administrative status individuals cannot register with the census, and without registration, children cannot enrol in school. A.E.A’s mother provided alternate evidence of residency including his birth certificate and utility bills, but despite numerous judicial proceedings, neither local administrative nor judicial authorities recognised A.E.A’s right to attend school.
In March 2020 A.E.A’s mother denounced the situation to the CRC, using the complaints mechanism. in November 2020, the residency of A.E.A and his family in Melilla was confirmed by the police. However, despite legal guarantees regarding the right to education in Spanish national legislation, authorities in the Morrocan based enclave did not allow A.E.A to attend school, citing his lack of legal residency as the basis for their decision.
In March 2020, the national education Ministry ordered the Melillan authorities to admit A.E.A into school. In June 2021, the Committee took a decision in A.E.A’s favour and urged Spain to implement compensatory measures to address the two years of schooling the boy had missed.
The CRC finding and its implications
Crucially, the CRC recognises that A.E.A’s case is not unique, and despite legal guarantees regarding the right to education of all resident children irrespective of administrative status, those children without legal residency permits face ‘de facto obstacles that prevent their schooling’.
In 2020, the CRC welcomed Spain’s swift action to uphold the right to education of N.S, a 12 year old Morrocan national resident in Melilla, who had previously been denied entry to the public school system.
Yet these are not isolated cases; estimates suggest that 150 children with irregular administrative status in Melilla are currently excluded from the public education system. Committee member Luis Pedernera noted ‘this amounts to discrimination in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child’.