“One of my clients is going to file a complaint against his travel agency. They had not told him that Puerto Rico (resort town on the island of Gran Canaria) was full of migrants. It was once at the beach and there were groups of 15-20 (migrants) without masks. He did not come out (from his hotel) and decided to leave“, he says.
At this time of year, peak tourist season in the Canaries, Puerto Rico normally welcomes up to 25,000 vacationers, especially Scandinavians.
But currently, the seaside resort is empty of tourists. In their place in hotels, 1,500 migrants.
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Since the start of the year, more than 18,000 migrants have made the crossing from the north-western coasts of Africa opposite the Canaries. A situation reminiscent of 2006 when 30,000 migrants landed in the Canaries.
Overwhelmed by this influx, the authorities have set up temporary camps and are relocating migrants to hotels.
For tourism professionals, pillar of the archipelago’s economy, this new migratory crisis falls very badly while the sector has been devastated by the pandemic and relied heavily on a rebound this fall.
According to official figures, the number of overnight stays in the archipelago fell 86.7% in October over one year, to 1.1 million.
– Ambiance “tense” –
“It hurts, there are 40 people (on the beach) whereas usually at the same time, we don’t even see the sand“, laments Carmelo Suárez, car rental company and spokesperson for a tourism defense platform which is organizing a demonstration on Friday.
“We are not against immigration but we need specific sites. If a person spends their savings to come, they don’t want to share their hotel with a migrant“, he denounces.
In Puerto Rico, where open shops are rare, hundreds of young migrants are killing time on the beach or in parks. Others wait around a Western Union agency.
Eliazar Hernández, waiter at Balcon Canario restaurant, says the atmosphere “is very tense“and that one of his German clients told him”return to Germany“after four days due to the presence of migrants.
In recent weeks, several demonstrations have taken place in the archipelago against migrants but also in defense of their rights.
On the seafront, where the thermometer reads 25 degrees, three Scandinavian pensioners, bare chests, pass by a group of young Senegalese migrants, dressed in hoodies and recounting their dangerous crossing to journalists.
“I don’t like it, we are on a small island“, says a British tourist passing in front of them who refuses to give her name.
Met in another part of the seaside resort, the Swedish David Gustaffson has nothing to complain about. “I came to spend a week, my family ask me about the refugees, they saw it on TV” more “I haven’t seen any herehe said, drinking a beer.
– “I want to stay here” –
Next to the group of young Senegalese, the huge restaurant Terraza Gran Canaria, which usually employs 60 people, is closed. Three of its employees display signs on the storefront. On one of them, a grave is drawn with the words “RIP restauration“.
“Tourists cancel their vacations, they are afraid and do not come“, regrets one of them, Benaisa Mohamed, from the Spanish enclave of Melilla located in the north of Morocco. One of his colleagues, Jimmy Camara, is from Sierra Leone.
“We are all immigrants but leave them like that, free, in the streets ….“, he adds.
On the beach, Aliou Gueye, a 17-year-old Senegalese, plays football with other young people. “I want to stay here, I like it and I am learning Spanish“, he says.
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