Barcelona      -    Spain is struggling to accommodate thousands of young migrants who over the years have arrived alone on rickety boats or hidden in trucks, some of whom have ended up on the streets or even become involved in crime.

There are currently around 14,000 unaccompanied young migrants in Spain, according to the government, up from just around 4,000 in 2016.

In regions like Catalonia in Spain’s northeast, which has a large Moroccan community that attracts the youngsters after they arrive in the south, reception centres are overwhelmed.

In Barcelona, dozens sleep rough on benches, in parks or in makeshift camps hidden in the hills that surround this Mediterranean seaside city.

“They’re damaged, many sniff glue. And they’re very vulnerable on the street, criminal gangs take advantage and get hold of them,” Peio Sanchez, a priest in charge of the Santa Anna church where young migrants sleep regularly, tells AFP.

In front of the church in a small, hidden square near the popular Ramblas avenue in Barcelona, two teenagers share a cigarette as they play on their mobile phones.

One of them sleeps in a juvenile centre. The other, Sofiane, lives on the street.