The number of African migrants in the Canary Islands has been increasing for weeks. Spain’s government refuses to bring the newcomers to the mainland, which would relieve the islands. Madrid, on the other hand, relies on deportations.
To solve the dramatically worsening migration crisis in the Canary Islands, Spain is relying on the establishment of emergency camps for thousands – but also on faster deportations regardless of the corona pandemic. To this end, the left government in Madrid launched a diplomatic offensive in the migrants’ countries of origin.
For weeks more and more Africans have been daring the dangerous crossing to the Canaries. This year more than 18,000 arrived there in small wooden boats. That means an increase of 1,000 percent compared to the previous year. 9,000 arrived in the past four weeks alone. In the past few days, however, the number of people arriving has decreased significantly due to unfavorable weather conditions.
5,500 migrants accommodated in hotels
To alleviate the immediate need, Spain now wants to build emergency camps for 7,000 migrants. These centers would be available in Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Tenerife in the next few weeks, said Migration Minister José Luis Escrivá on Friday during a visit to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Gran Canaria: Refugees come to the “Barranco Seco” military facility after they were rescued by rescue workers in the Atlantic Ocean. (Source: dpa)
Around 5,500 migrants are currently temporarily accommodated in 17 hotels. Because of the pandemic, the Canaries are currently not as fully booked as they are at this time of year. Politicians and the media of the islands accuse Madrid of abandoning the Canary Islands during the crisis. Rescue services and the police are completely overwhelmed.
Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya wanted to fly to Senegal on Saturday. In the West African state, one of the most important countries of origin alongside Morocco, Laya wanted to negotiate measures to speed up repatriation and to make illegal emigration more difficult, according to media reports. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska had a similar agenda when he visited Morocco on Friday.
“Migration policy is determined by the EU”
Spain wants to manage the migration crisis in a humane, responsible and solidary manner, Laya assured on Friday evening in Geneva after meeting the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Antonio Vitorino, and the head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi. But Madrid wants to fight the human trafficking mafia “with zero tolerance” and in cooperation with countries like Senegal. The migrants who are illegally staying in the Canary Islands will therefore be repatriated. She asked for support in Geneva.
Interior Minister Grande-Marlaska also made it clear that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government would only bring a few of the migrants arriving in the Canary Islands to the mainland. “Migration policy is determined by the EU, not Spain alone,” he said after a meeting with his Moroccan colleague Abdelouafi Laftit. It is about fighting illegal migration. Most of the newcomers to the Canary Islands had set sail in Morocco, more than 100 kilometers away.
Spain has signed bilateral agreements on the return of migrants with Morocco and several other African countries. Due to the corona pandemic and the associated travel restrictions and border closings, the number of deportees has fallen significantly this year.