He has lost his job and doesn’t feel like eating. Her mouth gags from the smell of chicken as she remembers the day she decided to leave her four-year-old daughter alone in her bed, surrounded by her toys and her phone, because she didn’t want to return. Could have gone Remembering work Life for 23-year-old Colombian Catalina Delgado (not her real name) came to a halt when she locked the door of her Madrid home at 10:30 pm on February 16. A few hours later she was gunned down at the bar where she worked. Wherein his daughter went straight to the child reform home. He didn’t sleep with her for 35 days. She is also six months pregnant and has only been seen by a doctor in the emergency room. She faces trial for abandoning minors – punishable by up to three years in prison – stalled by a strike by judicial lawyers. While things get complicated, she makes pilgrimages to a different Sangha every day, calls her daughter to the center, sees her once a week, returns to another Sangha. With no job, no money, no medical care, and now without her daughter, she tries to survive in a country that comes under more and more pressure every day. And she feels that she is drowning.
Delgado knows more about drowning than any girl her age. She grew up in the jungle department of Putumayo, the gateway to the Amazon, on the Colombian border between Peru and Ecuador. One of those corners that environmentalists try to protect while armed groups fight for people’s lives. The largest areas of cocaine cultivation in all of Colombia are concentrated on these lands, 31,000 hectares (31,000 stadiums such as the Santiago Bernabéu, half of all Madrid). From there his family fled by bus to Cali, a distance of about 18 hours. And there too he returned years later with the father of his daughter. In November 2019, shortly before they decided to leave their country with the girl and two of her four brothers on a flight to Madrid without return, narcos shot up the house where they lived. They say that nine months after they landed in Spain, they refused to grant them asylum. His life was not considered to be in danger.
What Delgado didn’t expect was that he was going to face the toughest episode in Madrid. “I swear it’s the most difficult experience I’ve ever had,” he insists. She finds herself encircled by the same spiral of misery thousands of her people simultaneously live in: no asylum, no papers; There is no contract without papers; Without the payroll, there is no way to get the flat in his name; Without a registered address, there is no Padron. Without a register, she cannot access social support or a doctor monitoring her pregnancy. In her case, his help may ease her state of extreme vulnerability. Such as access to municipal or regional programs that support mothers like hers or her daughter’s scholarship to the school canteen, which she was denied, for which she had to pay a fee of 100 euros per month.
Police went to Delgado’s home on the night of February 16 due to a call from a neighbor, who informed officers of a girl crying on the other side of the wall. A colleague who was staying with him opened the door for the agents when he returned from work that night. The phone that Delgado had left with his daughter revealed that she was working at a bar in Villaverde. And that night her little girl slept in the center for the first time and her mother in a dungeon.
Since then the process has stalled. The judge’s ruling could mark your file with a criminal record, torpedoing any chance you have of getting your papers and applying for a better and more stable job. The Community of Madrid, which immediately took back temporary custody of the girl, continues to study her case. “She is working on rebuilding and exploring support options”, he explains in family counseling.
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This Wednesday, Delgado is visiting his daughter at 10 a.m., bringing her a bag of jelly beans and Doritos. although she would really like to make him a sweaty, “With her little rice, her little fish or meat and an apple, which is her favorite fruit”, And when he remembers his lunch, he starts crying. He has one hour a week to see the girl. The rest of the time, he has to make do with 15-minute phone calls every afternoon. “Mom, but where are you?” Delgado said his daughter asks him every time he speaks. “The police brought me here because you left me alone and I cried. You’ll never leave me alone again, will you?” she repeats. She cannot tell him that she is in her house, in their house, because then the girl does not understand anything. That she can’t take him to his school in Vallecas, or visit his friends, or take him to the park in the afternoon. “I tell him I’m going to work and he has to be there,” she says.
But he hasn’t worked for a month. The belly begins to stick out suspiciously from under the down jacket. She covers it up, as if she’s embarrassed. Her partner and the father of that child moved to another country a week before everything exploded in search of a more profitable job. And now she’s single. Her only family in Spain are her brother and her sister-in-law, who can survive with precarious jobs as blacks and two children. Everyone who helped her that night let her down, one of her friends, as well as her brother and her sister-in-law. They are the key witnesses in her case, apart from the testimony of the Vallecas Public School to which she had taken the girl and the pediatrician. “I am not what they say about me. I’m not a bad mother, it’s all like a bad dream, ”she says.
He survives as best he can these days, living on less than his savings of three years, in a country that is increasingly expensive and especially for foreigners without papers. A room in a shared apartment in Ascao costs her 350 euros a month, although she barely earns 1,000 euros a day to care for the elderly. Two people she worked with – a man in Teruel and a woman in Leganes – died in 2020 and she went to the Villaverde bar as her only option. She had been at that job for less than a month when she was arrested. She now fears her pregnancy will make it more difficult for her to find another job.
Spain, among European destinations for treatment of migrant families
This woman’s fight to get her daughter back parallels that of many other poor women in Spain who are also migrants. A month earlier, the Superior Court of Justice of Castilla y León sentenced the Community’s Family Department to pay 150,000 euros to a Bulgarian mother and her twin twin daughters for taking back custody in 2016. disproportionately for a year” and that the “trauma” was caused by the girls, who were then 12 years old. In at least three other cases, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Spain for actions violating the rights of foreign fathers and mothers and their children. In 2012, the same court agreed with a Nigerian who alleged that the Murcia Child Protection Service had given his son up for adoption after his mother was deported from the country.
The experts consulted agree that the child protection system is failing to prevent those who do not have the resources from losing their children and report a lack of support. In the office of José Antonio Bosch, a lawyer with extensive experience in minors cases, cases come across in which the system does not protect mothers or their children. Bosch recalls that Spain has about 36,000 minors under the care of autonomous communities, a number that seems “extremely high”. The lawyer criticizes the protection mechanism: “You can ask the Junta de Andalucía, for example, how many kilos of tuna pass through the strait and its average diameter, but don’t even think of asking what is the result of the conservation policy is a teenager. What do we do with the children? What level of education do they reach? Do we train them to work? … How can a system be valued without data and without analysis? ”, he questions.
The lawyer does not analyze the specific case of Delgado and his daughter, but frames it in a dynamic he knows well. “The mission of the administration should not be to protect the minor outside the home, but to protect, as far as possible, within his family. This is the challenge, although what is usually done is to choose the fastest and cheapest route, which is to get the children back. It is insulting that living with a child you go to see him once a week and the administration takes a long time to decide about the future of the child”, he concluded.
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