AThe trip should be over in the Canaries. Although the emergency shelters on the Atlantic Islands are overcrowded, the Spanish government is blocking the way to mainland Europe for the more than 18,000 migrants who have arrived there this year. The gate to Europe remains closed, said Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos on a visit to Gran Canaria on the weekend. The government in Madrid fears that more boats will come if the migrants are allowed to travel to Spain. Therefore, several tent camps for up to 7000 people are now to be built on the islands at an accelerated rate. About 5500 migrants are currently housed in hotels and other holiday complexes that are empty due to the Corona crisis.
It is a matter of creating “humane” humanitarian conditions before the migrants are returned to their countries of origin, said the transport minister. In Spain there is increasing talk of a “second Moria” in the Atlantic – alluding to the island of Lesbos, where thousands of migrants have been stuck for a long time. The government has opted for the “Greek model” and is transforming the Canary Islands into one of the largest refugee camps in Europe, criticized the conservative newspaper “El Mundo” at the weekend.
Badly coordinated ministries
The Canarian regional government and many residents feel abandoned by the left-wing government in Madrid. New accommodation was promised weeks ago, but the coordination between the various ministries is apparently poor. The Ministry of Defense in particular is accused of preventing rapid solutions. “The Canary Islands are resisting being the only place in Spain that is supposed to accommodate all of Europe’s migration,” complains the socialist Canarian regional president Ángel Víctor Torres.
Opposition leader Pablo Casado urged the government to finally act. “We have to abide by the law and send all comers back immediately,” said the leader of the conservative People’s Party on Saturday during a visit to Gran Canaria. The primary goal of the government is to defuse the catastrophic situation on the Arguineguín pier in the south-west of Gran Canaria. At times there were up to 2,300 newcomers there, who are registered and tested for Corona. Only a dozen showers and a couple of Dixie toilets are available on the area in the harbor, which is actually only intended for 400 people.
Return flights from Morocco
Human rights activists report that some migrants had to stay there for several weeks. Since the wind had turned, only one boat arrived in Tenerife at the weekend. Most cast off in Mauritania and Morocco. However, a large part also comes from distant countries such as Senegal and Gambia. According to information from aid organizations, Moroccans now make up well over half of the migrants. They mostly set out from the coast of the Western Sahara, annexed by Morocco, which is only a good hundred kilometers away. There the conflict with the Western Sahara Liberation Front Polisario is just flaring up again.
As a transit country and country of origin, Morocco plays a key role in the new migration crisis for Spain. The Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska traveled to Rabat again on Friday, but allegedly came back without any specific promises. Because of the corona pandemic, more young Moroccans are now making their way to the Canaries, who used to work in the tourism industry, which has now completely collapsed. According to press reports, the Moroccan authorities in Western Sahara only acted sporadically against African migrants.
Since September there have been half a dozen return flights to Senegal, Mali and Guinea. Spain organized just a single flight with 22 West African migrants from the Canary Islands to Mauritania in November. It was revealed over the weekend that up to 170 migrants may have drowned after leaving the Senegalese coastal city of Mbour on November 6.