Fostering between Spain and Morocco, another way to get a legal status

Núria Empez Vidal, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona

While labor migration between Morocco and Spain is a long-established practice, the migration of unaccompanied minors, children who come alone without a responsible adult, began only within the last decade. The enforcement of the Spanish “foreigners’ law” appears to have generated this phenomenon. Spanish law sees these children (almost all boys, and, until recently, almost all between ages 16 and 18) in two contradictory ways. They are on one side minors who should be “protected,” but they are also “irregular migrants” who should be sent back. The law opens a window of opportunity to legal status in ways that irregular migrants aged 18 and above do not have, resulting in a distinct wave of child migrants who seek to enter Spain, often by very dangerous means. Very recently, a new migration phenomenon revolving around minors has begun to appear: child fostering between Moroccan minors and individuals in their social networks in Spain. This practice appears to have arisen in reaction to the recent erosion of the minors’ protection system. If recognized as a foster child, in which a judge has given responsibility for it to a fostering family (Sp: “tutela”), a child can get legal status in two years, qualifying as a family member brought in according to family reunification policy. This study underlines that the vital events that underlie Moroccan family reproductive patterns – births, marriage, migration – are undergoing major transformations largely because of changes in Spanish law and practice. Based on case studies, it asks why this new form of migration is appearing and who the minors are. It does so by examining the structures and strategies of families back home and of the established Moroccan families in Spain that the minors attempt to join as “foster children.”

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 57: Managing regular and irregular migration