More irregular arrivals, but also more infrastructure to accommodate migrants and less concentration. The clandestine entries of migrants to Spain have risen 53.5% so far in 2021 compared to the same period of time last year, according to data published this Thursday by the Interior Ministry. This pronounced, although more gradual, increase in arrivals –which still does not include those produced in Ceuta in the month of May– is less noticeable than in the past.
The Government puts the reception in the Canary Islands to the limit by blocking migrants on the islands in full peak of arrivals
The existence of sufficient places, the speeding up of transfers to the peninsula and better coordination in the protocols linked to the pandemic prevent, at least for the moment, a reception crisis like that of previous years.
From January 1 to September 14, 20,491 people have entered Spanish soil clandestinely. Except in Melilla, the increase in the migratory flow has occurred through all the points of entry to Spain, although the increases detected on the routes to the Canary Islands and Ceuta stand out, despite the fact that the Government has not yet included in its reports the figures recorded during the May crisis.
Although the season in which, due to weather conditions, the largest number of boat trips to the Canary archipelago usually take place, has not yet begun, 11,060 people have risked their lives in the Atlantic and have landed in one of the Canary Islands, compared to the 5,090 recorded at this time in 2020. In this area, the rise exceeds 117%. The number of migrants who have reached the peninsula and the Balearic Islands is similar, 10,701 people, although the increase compared to the same period of the previous year remains at 19%.
799 people have arrived by sea in Ceuta until September 14, 297% more than the previous year in the same period. The figures registered the previous year remained in the two hundred. The only point where traffic goes down is in Melilla. Only four migrants have arrived in the city by sea (73% less) and 991 by land (15% less).
The pandemic, the reason for the difference
The relaxation of sanitary restrictions in the countries of origin explains a good part of the increase registered in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the same period of the previous year. “In 2020, during the lockdown, arrivals plummeted between April and May. In June they began to regain their rhythm. The reduction in irregular arrivals in those months of lockdown explains part of that difference between 2020 and 2021 until September”, says Blanca Garcés, researcher in the Migration area at the Barcelona Center for International Affairs (CIDOB).
In turn, COVID-19 has also impacted on the root causes of irregular migration that has reached Spain in this period. “The pandemic has had a very important effect on the economic situation of people who were in transit or were in other countries. In the case of Morocco, the closure of the border between Ceuta and Melilla has economically affected thousands of people,” he adds Garcés.
Despite the gradual growth of the migratory flow, arrivals “continue to be low,” according to José Javier Sánchez Espinosa, deputy director of Migrations at the Red Cross.
These people are forced to risk their lives in the face of the obstacles they face to get a visa to get to Europe on a regular basis, they recall from NGOs specialized in migration. The increase in the migratory flow is accompanied by an increase in deaths at sea. At least 2,087 people have died or disappeared at sea in their attempt to reach Spain irregularly in the first six months of 2021, according to the latest data from Caminando Fronteras. The NGO has been warning for months of a “terrible” increase in tragedies compared to those registered in the same period of the previous year.
More infrastructures in the Canary Islands
In mid-September of last year, the news was the precarious conditions with which hundreds of ecstatic migrants were received after their landing. Despite the fact that the arrivals were lower than those registered during the same months of this year, then the new arrivals were already spending nights and days in the open on the ground of the port of Arguineguín. At the end of October, the “shame” camp accommodated thousands of migrants, making the crisis more evident.
The increase in the reception places available in the Canary Islands, the speeding up of transfers to the peninsula – before the end of the blockade policy promoted by the Justice -, a lower incidence of COVID-19 among newcomers and the greater adaptation of the The system to the protocols linked to the pandemic avoid images and complaints such as those that marked the last months of 2020, explains the member of the Spanish Red Cross to elDiario.es.
Sánchez Espinosa’s speech sounds calmer than a year ago, although he speaks of higher figures. The number of migrants served by the Red Cross in Spain has already grown by 204% until mid-September of this year, compared to 2020. Their figures do include assistance to migrants who arrived in Ceuta during the diplomatic crisis with Morocco in the month of May.
The technician also cites as an example the reception in the Canary Islands. “At this time we have assisted 10,554 people on the islands, while last year on the same dates there were 4,936 [el dato no corresponde al número de llegadas porque sus cifras se refieren a atenciones, ya sean a pie de costa o en otras circunstancias]”says Sánchez Espinosa.” We have served twice as many people and yet everything is more fluid. ”
One of the changes cited by the Red Cross, the institution that last year managed most of the reception places in the Canary Islands, is the adaptation of the humanitarian care system to the pandemic, which continues to present challenges. “All the care and prevention against COVID-19 was something new. Now, although the magnitude of arrivals is greater, everything is going more smoothly. The protocols are clearer and there are more shared management centers, facilitated by the autonomous communities, to house the positives and close contacts, “says Sánchez Espinosa.
Although they carry numerous criticisms from NGOs that point to their precarious conditions, the 7,000 places open on the islands by the Canary Islands Plan have generated “a cushion” of space available to accommodate migrants in case of migratory peaks, he adds. “The network is not the same as we had a year ago. From being able to open 1,200 reception places in hotels, now they reach 7,000”, points out the institution.
The end of the blockade of migrants in the Canary Islands also facilitates the management of arrivals to the archipelago. “Part of the crises have to do with political management. The moment you contain those arrivals in a geographically closed place, such as Ceuta, Melilla or the Canary Islands, you are creating a crisis in concrete terms, which ends up being visible as such However, some arrivals that are distributed throughout the territory become less visible “, describes the CIDOB expert.
For Garcés, the image of chaos that is sometimes related to irregular migration “does not” always “have to do with numbers, but with a poor response to arrivals and with those European policies of containment in certain spaces that are not conditions to be able to guarantee a good reception “.
The availability of sufficient spaces for newcomers to comply with quarantine, if necessary, is one of the key points that will mark the quality of the reception if the trend of irregular entries continues to rise, especially in the Canary Islands, as predicted. several experts consulted.
The rhythm of migratory arrivals detected at the end of August and September usually measures the temperature of the intensity of the migratory flow that is to arrive in October and November, when the meteorological conditions facilitate navigation through this area of the Atlantic, according to Txema Santana, advisor of the Vice Presidency of the Government of the Canary Islands in migratory matters. “We are beginning to rise, but we have not reached the same intensity as last year,” adds the expert. “Nothing makes us think that there is not going to be a peak like that of previous years.”