My first contact with street children was in 2006 during a survey conducted in Nador and Beni Ansar*. They pour in from all over Morocco, coming to fulfill their dream of emigrating at the Melilla Gate. The youngest is 9 years old!
Some fled their families’ fragility, violence, and school dropouts. Others were sent by their families. But access to Meliá, the door of El Dorado, is still impassable. Some slip into trucks and go to El Centro, a Spanish accommodation center that takes care and trains them. Then they can go to Spain. The door to Europe is open to them.
But not everyone. Dozens of children drown in decay. Returning to the family is impossible. If the child ran away, he feared family revenge. If his family pays for the trip, he is ashamed to return there as a failure. He dreams of getting rich and returning gloriously to his family.
Among them, there are very few girls. They live on the streets, they become homeless, they take drugs, they beg … street children. Like those you see on the streets of Casablanca.
But Nador and Bani Ansar have a strategy: emigration. Others are victims of despair. Others are born on the street to parents who are themselves homeless. A common point for all: no identity document.
In 2007, we created the Riad Al-Amal Association in Casablanca to try to reintegrate these damned people into society. They taught us a lot!
According to UNICEF, the child from The street always sleeps on the street. Child at The street spends its days and evenings on the street, but returns to sleep at home. children from They live in the street and from the street. They are often at odds with their families.
This phenomenon is increasing all over the world. In our house we call them shamakria (Those who inhale) because they use drugs silicon, glue is sold in pharmacies. They disgust us, pity us, frighten us … or leave us indifferent.
In Casablanca, in the center of the city, we see them wandering, staggering under the influence of drugs, tattered, in rags, disheveled … At night, they are scattered on the sidewalks of upscale neighborhoods, on the floor or on a sheet of cardboard, pressing each other to keep warm but also to protect themselves from theft, rape and assault.
They live in gangs to counter the violence of other gangs. They prey on all kinds of threats. They live by begging, small favours, in the markets. They steal to eat, especially to buy medicines. They sell clothes donated by associations. Without drugs, it is impossible to stand the hell of the streets.
I often hear people say: Why don’t the authorities take them home? We are facing a very complex phenomenon. Reintegration is very difficult, even in rich countries. Going out into the street is always motivated by verbal and physical violence immigration (Injustice) by the father, especially if he is an alcoholic and/or drug addict. The brother can transgress and especially the stepmother, if the mother is deceased or divorced.
The school is responsible: violent teachers are on the rise immigration. Often, when a child is asked to come with his father, he is afraid. He goes away and takes refuge in the street. The school no longer accepts him. vicious circle. Fear drives him away from home. Never drift!
There are few girls. In 2017, we scored in Casablanca 11%. Girls getting off the streets are motivated by violence, even pregnancy. Many associations are supported.
On the street, girls join gangs. They often have a regular partner and sometimes others pass. Ordinary protects from rape. Pregnancy is not rare and gives rise to children without identity, who are cursed from birth.
Many associations support these children, in cooperation with public authorities. But the epidemic slowed everything down. Confinement in small spaces and misery has pushed many children onto the streets.
Attempts to put children in closed centers fail because they are addicted to drugs and are banned upon arrival. Moving them away from the city center is a fiasco as this is where begging pays off and not in the outback.
Compliance with an appropriate protocol is essential. Our study is the only one in Morocco and Africa**, proposes a reintegration protocol that should start on the street by respecting the stages. It is the role of the social worker who must be specially trained. No consolidation works through confinement or isolation.
This is on a therapeutic level.
But we can work on a preventive level. It is the role of the school that must have social workers. Teachers must reject violence and pay attention to the behavior of the child. If he changes, if he is sad, if his handwriting changes, his grades go down, if he is absent … These disturbances should be reported to the social worker who should listen to and investigate the child. The problem may come from teachers or other students.
If the problem is familial, the parents can be alerted, and informed… This would significantly reduce school dropout because the child leaves school first, before his family leaves. If the child is subjected to abuse in his family, the social worker must inform the Public Prosecutor, who initiates the procedures in the best interests of the child.
Public authorities, civil society and elected officials must unite more within the framework of a global and integrated programme, but with in-depth knowledge of the phenomenon and with dedicated contributors.
*Children from the province of Nador and the unaccompanied minor immigrationFor the Technical Office of the Spanish Cooperation in Morocco with Dr. Chakib Goussous)
**Street children. Sociology support and reintegrationin collaboration with Chakib Jesus (Marsam Edition, 2019).