Spanish explosives experts defuse grenade at Madrid center for minors

The facility has been criticized in the past by far-right groups who claim it is housing young foreign criminals

Image of the device that was defused at the center.
Image of the device that was defused at the center.

A team of explosives experts on Wednesday safely destroyed a training grenade after the weapon was thrown over the wall of a center for minors in the Hortaleza district of Madrid.

According to police sources, the device was military grade, and placed inside a plastic bag. “These artifacts carry a small explosive charge… but they do carry one,” the same sources said. The migrant center has been the target of a number of attacks, the most serious of which was an attempt by 30 youths to enter the premises on October 30.

According to sources at the center, a security guard “found a grenade inside a trash can on the basketball court” at 11am on Wednesday. “The police were called in, and they stopped anyone from coming in or leaving.” Images to which EL PAÍS has had access show an area inside the center that had been cordoned off.

The center while the explosives experts were at work.
The center while the explosives experts were at work.

By 12.15pm, the explosives experts had safely destroyed the device, having concluded that it was a type of grenade used by the Spanish army.

“This is very serious,” said employees at the center. “We are right in the middle of all the xenophobia. This is the absolute limit, we can’t go on working like this,” complained a staff member after the incident.

“The criminalization of unaccompanied migrant children has these effects,” tweeted the spokesperson for the left-wing Unidas Podemos party in the Madrid regional government, Isabel Serra. “[Rocío] Monasterio, the one who is pointing them out, is responsible,” she added, in reference to one of the leading figures of the far-right anti-immigration Vox party.

A section of the center was cordoned off.
A section of the center was cordoned off.

The center has been facing a variety of problems, not least of them overcrowding: in 2018 it was at 149% of its capacity. The minors staying at the center are Spanish as well as from other countries, and they include unaccompanied migrants and victims of sexual exploitation and other kinds of abuse.

With the support of Vox and a far-right civil society group known as Hogar Social, a small number of nearby residents has grouped together to demand the center be closed, accusing its occupants of causing the increased the sense of insecurity in the neighborhood. Both the public prosecutor and the central government have denied that this is true.

The regional leader of Vox, Rocío Monasterio, visited the center in October. “Women no longer walk to the supermarket alone and they have to be accompanied by their husbands because they are afraid,” she said at the time. She was flanked by residents who said they were “sick of the insecurity.”

Vox’s national leader, Santiago Abascal, has also made fiery speeches about centers such as this one during political debates ahead of the November 10 repeat general election. Vox has also in the past set up stalls outside the center from which it hands out information about the party.

A report from the Madrid regional government reflects how overcrowding is making the work of the staff at the center more difficult. Around 30% of the workforce is currently on medical leave, according to the CSIF union. At the beginning of November, the leftist political party Más Madrid filed a report with the ombudsman denouncing four incidents involving assaults against minors residing in the Hortaleza center.

English version by Simon Hunter.


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