Melilla, border of hope

Inter-parish Caritas helps migrants and indigent persons

The commitment of Caritas Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Morocco for people in need, is huge. There are illegal migrants who enter Melilla as a gateway to Europe, but there are also families in dire economic conditions because of the ongoing crisis. And many, many children. Concrete help to migrants. In the parish of the Sacred Heart, where interparish Caritas Melilla has its headquarters, there is a room with a dozen computers with Internet connection. Every day migrants staying at the temporary detention Centre – CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal del Inmigrante) go there to communicate with their respective families. “It’s always full, they come to our centre morning and night”, said Pilar Illázquez Berrocal, Caritas director. “We learn a lot and we suffer a lot”, continued Illázquez Berrocal, referring to his work in Melilla, a post he has been holding for six years. With his team of volunteers he coordinates Caritas activity in six parishes of the autonomous City. The work in this “front line” of migration between Africa and Europe is heterogeneous, complex and difficult. “Our commitment is complementary to social aid” provided by public authorities. “The autonomous city gives a great contribution though its Social Wellbeing service, but there are many people in need”, the director pointed out. The institution takes care of a melting pot of people, including Spaniards and immigrants without papers, single parent families and large families, young and old people. Support for people of African descent without papers constitutes a very important part of the activity of Caritas, which has signed an agreement with the city council to cover the rent of those who are in a situation of extreme poverty. “This agreement is especially meant for women who have no papers, with dependent children who are also without papers because they were abandoned by their husbands, or because the latter cannot afford taking care of them. Through Caritas we can help them”, said Illázquez Berrocal.Children, the least protected. Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla Caritas also grants major support to the weakest bracket: children. In this field, it promotes study support lessons for the children of families to which it gives hospitality. Such assistance is offered in the parishes of the Sacred Heart, St. Francis Xavier and St. Augustine. “In the summer we organize ‘urban camps’ for youths, in recognition of their efforts during the rest of the year”, said the Caritas director. Similarly, other parishes hold literacy classes for young foreigners, mostly Muslim, who work as domestic helpers in Melilla. “Here we have so-called ‘frontier-contracts.’ They are drawn up in Melilla, but those who sign them are not allowed to live here. Every day they have to cross the border. As they are not allowed to attend the courses held by the Ministry of Education they come to learn Spanish in our literacy classes”, said the head of Caritas. Food emergency. According to the interparish Caritas report of Melilla, half of assisted families had problems putting a meal together. “Food is a priority need in Melilla”, pointed out Illázquez Berrocal. A third of these families cannot afford to pay medicines, 315 families are homeless. “Two years ago – she said – a family from Barcelona was living in a van. The wife was sick, their children went to school but had no access to washing water. They could not file a request for housing because the time for filing such request established by the law had expired. They came to Caritas for help. We were able to give them what they needed: the dignity as human beings. Now they live in a home, and they run a stable household.” The director pointed out that aid is coming through thanks to members of local Caritas, currently 198. “To be a member means to cooperate with others on a daily basis, not sporadically. We need the help of everyone in today’s situation. Our purpose each year is to work and make an effort to live in communion.” Seventy volunteers and four salaried workers place major effort in the realization of these goals.

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