MALAGA, Spain – In 2011, Moroccan Othman Beda managed to arrive in Fuengirola, Spain, after traveling for seven hours hanging on to the bottom of a bus that had departed from Tangier.
Beda was only a teenager when he decided to get onto that bus, leaving his family behind in search of a better future.
He became an unaccompanied migrant minor in Spain.
“I was a rebel as a child, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was traveling to a place I didn’t know. I took the step when I was 16. I held on to the bottom part of a bus from Tangier until Fuengirola. Some people will hold on until Barcelona or Madrid, but I said: “I don’t want to fall and die... I’m already here (Spain),” Beda told Efe.
Eight years later, he is one step away from becoming a university student.
“We need young people, we need to invest in those young people who are coming, give them an education, support them if they have problems to integrate,” he added.
“We need to focus on them more.”
First, Beda was transferred to a center for unaccompanied migrant minors in Torremolinos in southern Spain.
After taking part in a fight, he was transferred to a protection center in Jaen, also in south Spain.
Living there, Beda learned Spanish and finished his High School studies.
He also completed a mediation and conflict resolution course that changed his life.
“We started giving talks at protection centers and even juvenile centers and that’s when I realized that was what I wanted to do,” Beda said.
He left the center when he was 21 years old and decided to try his luck in Malaga, where he spent a month in a homeless shelter.
After that, Beda managed to rent a room for a year because he qualified for government benefits.
Malaga Acoge, a local organization dedicated to helping migrants, encouraged him to continue studying.
He has already applied for a place at university to become a social worker.
“I want to work with young offenders. Because it’s different when you talk to someone who has been through the same things you have than when you talk to someone that has the training,” Beda said.
“The training is very important. But if you talk to someone who has the training but also has experienced the same thing, it helps. It gets to kids and takes what you say into consideration.”
More than 12,300 unaccompanied migrant minors currently live in Spain.
Almost 5,200 are registered in Andalusia, near 2,000 in Catalonia and more than 1,000 in Melilla, according to the 2019 Unaccompanied Migrant Minors Report by the Spanish police.
It is estimated that 6,200 unaccompanied migrant minors arrived in Catalonia between January 2017 and June 2019.