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Madrid barbershop helps young immigrants build a better future | Features

Madrid, Spain – In the early afternoon, La Pelu de Maakum or Maakum Barbershop just opened in Madrid, Spain.

The speakers play reggae music, the air conditioner is turned on, and Mohamed Elhkchin, a 17-year-old from Morocco, sweeps the floor.

This could be the scene of any barber shop in Getafe, a small town with a population of 180,000.

But a closer look will reveal that this is a more unique place.

The bathroom sign is in Arabic. The poster art calls for “Today’s Culture, Tomorrow’s Future”. There is a T-shirt printed with the Maakum Ceuta Association logo on the display cabinet. This is a non-profit organization that helps migrant children and young people arrive in Spain alone. .

Unlike other barber shops in the area, La Pelu de Maakum offers more than just haircuts. It provides young immigrants with an opportunity to lead to a better future.

The program was founded in April by the Maakum Ceuta Association to solve one of the biggest challenges faced by children who come to Spain alone-how to obtain residency after 18 years of age.

Unaccompanied immigrant children entering the country illegally are under the care of the state until they reach the legal age. After that, they relied on themselves.

Most people find themselves in a bureaucratic trap22-they can’t find a job because they don’t have a right of abode, and they can’t get a right of abode because they don’t have a job.

Without documents, they can be deported at any time and face greater risks of exploitation.

This is what La Pelu de Maakum is trying to prevent.

The idea is simple: young people who are no longer under the care of the state sign a contract to work in a barbershop, and once they have received sufficient training and settled down, they will give their place to another person.

“I will be 18 in August, and I’m not sure if I will live on the streets,” Mohammed said, sitting on the red sofa chair in the barbershop.

“But if I work here and save a little money, I can rent a place to live, even if it’s just a room. The most important thing is that I can update my paper.”

At the age of 18, Ultraman became the first employee of La Pelu de Makuum [Michael Damanti/Al Jazeera]

Like many before him, Mohammed entered the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Morocco in 2019 in search of a better life.

“In Morocco, it is clear that I will not have a bright future. So I thought,’I’m still young and I can still create a future for myself elsewhere and help myself and my family,”‘ he explained.

He stayed in Ceuta for six months before being transferred to Madrid, where he was placed in a children’s center.

These facilities are managed by the regional government, which is also responsible for providing education and training. However, the level of care is often not up to the requirements.

“Some staff in the center can’t put themselves in the eyes,” Mohamed said. “They live a normal life, they don’t have any problems, they can’t see things from your perspective.”

This is also a common problem in Spanish society.

Mohamed said that when he was on the subway, people would hold their bags tightly. If he asked for directions on the street, just ignore him, and would never let him make a phone call if he needed it.

“We have been trying our best to make people have a good impression of us, to show that we are here for a reason. We come here to work and help our family, but a Moroccan goes out to steal things, we are all bad guys, we All guilty,” he said.

Altman Elbady nodded in agreement.

Like Muhammad, he crossed Ceuta from Morocco and ended in Madrid.

At the age of 18, he became the first employee of La Pelu de Makuum.

He is very happy to come to the barber shop, but he is not sure whether this will change the negative perception of immigration.

“People have an idea in their heads, that’s it.”

This may be a daunting task, but Joana Mellan, one of the five co-founders of the Maakum Ceuta Association, said it is the key.

“Change is needed. Change starts with consciousness. Look at these people from a different perspective: not as a dangerous person, but as a person at risk, because in the end, they are the first victims of abuse and a violation of rights. Of the first victims,” ​​she said.

As the extreme right intensifies its attacks on immigrants, this message becomes increasingly difficult to convey.

Before the Madrid regional elections in May, the Vox party posted a campaign poster that read: “4,700 per month [the Spanish acronym of an unaccompanied migrant minor]. Your grandmother’s pension is 426 euros per month”-these figures do not add up.

The recent crisis in Ceuta, where thousands of young people entered Spanish territory in just a few days, only exacerbated tensions.

Augusto Delkáder, professor of political science, believes that La Pelu de Makuum is “very positive”, but a more sustainable solution is needed.

“When this should be the responsibility of the state, small NGOs and organizations are implementing integration policies, which makes people feel a little uncomfortable,” he said.

“These people should get the documents automatically; if they don’t, they have only two options: deport or go into hiding.”

Thanks to La Pelu de Maakum, Muhammad was spared.

Now he is very happy to be able to work.

“My family is proud of me. Although I have not done so much and cannot help them, I am on the right track.”

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