Thursday, February 2

Playing to the hole or how Santander ended up being the Calais of the north

Rescues of stowaways in the water, ships that have to return to the dock, assaults by freight trucks in service areas, returns of stowaways from the United Kingdom … Albanian immigration has turned the Port of Santander into the new Calais of the north after Bilbao fortified the access to its docks.

Santurtzi, another “wall of shame” in Europe

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According to the sources consulted, the capital of Cantabria is experiencing a rebound in attempted assaults by young Albanians who travel through the ports of the Cantabrian coast looking for the hole through which to enter a ship bound for the United Kingdom. And in this context, Santander and groups of Albanian migrants take the cake for now. At nightfall, the docks of the port become a corridor with about thirty daily attempts to penetrate the area, most of them unsuccessful.

According to data made public by the Port of Santander itself, in 2019 there were a total of 2,400 attempts to jump over the access fence by potential stowaways and only in the period between 2020 and 2021 1,050 sanctioning proceedings were initiated and 687 proposals were published resolution. However, other information indicates that 1,968 intruders have been detected in 2021 alone.

At present, the National Police, the Civil Guard and the Government Delegation send each other the request for information without any of them offering updated official data, although it has been unofficially confirmed that there is a rebound in cases and that, far from ending, jump attempts are growing.

The Santander Port Authority (APS) has invested around three million euros in the last two years in measures such as the improvement of fences, light poles, thermal and motion sensors and cameras to stop this “problem that is becoming endemic and causing incidents to operators, since sometimes customers return the cargo for damage caused by stowaways “, as stated by a spokesman for the Santander Port Authority (APS).

The hiring of a private security company that permanently provides service in the port is in the bidding process, despite the fact that there is already a presence of the Civil Guard and the Port Police itself, which has approximately 40 personnel.

When there is no opacity in the publicity of official data, contradictory manifestations are generated, from the Police officer who denied the existence of mafias behind the attempts to jump the gate to the referral of cases in Santander that the chief prosecutor of the Superior Court of Justice of Cantabria in 2018, Pilar Jiménez, ruled in the memory of that year. However, the sources consulted are clear on two things: the Albanian mafia is a reality and the cases do not subside but rather rebound.

The fact that the port of Santander, unlike that of the capital of Biscay, is in the heart of the city and not on the outskirts makes the establishment of concrete barriers unfeasible, which has not prevented the use of other alternatives. in disuse, even on the ‘hot’ border of Ceuta and Melilla, such as the concertinas.


The Port has been reinforcing its facilities for years. It has raised the perimeter fence to 4.5 meters, has equipped itself with cameras and sensors and has security guards on site. But it has been the installation of stabbed barbed wire in part of the port perimeter, as well as the purchase of 10 more kilometers, which has generated a wave of citizen protests in which NGOs such as Pasaje Seguro and parties such as the PSOE have intervened. The Government delegate in Cantabria, Ainoa Quiñones; the vice president of the Cantabrian Government, Pablo Zuloaga, and the parliamentary spokesperson, Noelia Cobo, have publicly shown themselves against its use.

The regional president, Miguel Ángel Revilla (PRC), one of whose men is currently the president of the Santander Port Authority (APS), Francisco Martín, former Minister of Industry with the regionalists, has taken a profile when asked about the installation of concertinas. The APS itself, which initially justified the fortification of the port as protection of the companies that work there and also of the Albanians themselves so that “a misfortune does not occur”, has not mentioned the subject again, but has not lifted a finger to the withdrawal of the concertinas already installed or for the withdrawal of the bid for the purchase of more material.

The Cantabrian authorities last June were more forceful and secretly held the Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, responsible, asking him to send “fewer intruders.” “If I had to ask the Interior for something, it would not be to send more forces and security forces, but to send fewer intruders, and that requires decisions of a legal nature,” Francisco Martín said at the time.

Revilla, who shared this criterion with him, requested by letter to Grande-Marlaska more Civil Guard and a change of legislation to stop this “endemic” problem. Among the proposals, the withdrawal of the tourist visa of the Albanian stowaways.

The truth is that the profile of the young people who try to pass to the United Kingdom as stowaways from Santander has nothing to do with that of the sub-Saharan migrant from Ceuta and Melilla. They come to the north of Spain from Albania with a passport, COVID vaccination carried out and a tourist visa, which gives them 90 days to try to go to the United Kingdom, otherwise they will be repatriated. They come with cash, mobile and instructions and slogans. They initially stay in pensions but over time, and if their attempts are not successful, they end up in what is known as ‘Hotel Albania’ or ‘Hotel Morri’ (‘louse’ in Albanian), a half-finished development in the Santander neighborhood of Nueva Mountain as a result of the 2008 crisis.

Their main base of operations is Santander, but not the only one. After Calais or Bilbao were armored, the Cantabrian capital and the existing ports up to Finisterre were subjected to assaults. There is evidence that Albanian migrants usually travel by trains along the Cantabrian coast or in cheap rental cars to call at other ports such as Gijón and Avilés, if they see opportunity in them. Cement ships, ro-ro traffic (wheeled cargo) such as the one dedicated to the transport of vehicles from factories and passenger ferries are favorite destinations of Albanian migrants as long as they are destined for the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, and as El Español has recently publishedOne of the most frequent points to try to board a ship is far from the port, paradoxically: they are the stations and service areas of the highways. There they locate the trucks that will end up boarding, of whose destination they are aware, and they enter its interior at dawn with the confidence that no one will discover their presence. The determination of the young stowaways causes them to retry crossing the perimeter of the compound several times each night. According to Martín, a month ago there were 25 attempts at night, several of them carried out by the same ones, who after being expelled made a new attempt.

The fact that they are ‘tourists’ and that the Port Police have a more administrative nature and cannot retain those they capture has led to the fact that private security, which can retain them until the Civil Guard arrives, is an important claim for The authorities. But even then, no matter how much they are placed in the hands of the public security forces, they are only briefly detained and return to the fence for another attempt.

The APS continues to explore legal avenues. In this sense, it has just hired for 14,000 euros a legal report from the law firm Cuatrecasas y Gonçalvez Pereira to explore the criminal repercussions that “the conduct of intruders who improperly access the Port of Santander” may have.

Yes, the return to Albania is activated when stowaways are detected in the United Kingdom and returned to Spain. They are then forwarded in turn to their country of origin by air. The British authorities sanction the affected company in an important way: each stowaway supposes 10,000 euros between sanction and expenses of return to the port of origin, a fine that, together with the image of insecurity that the Cantabrian port provides to consignees, can put consignees at risk the permanence of traffic such as those related to vehicles and passengers.

However, human rights organizations deny this approach, which has been reiterated by recent port presidents since a maritime line with Cork, in Ireland, was canceled.

There are also other damages and costs: damage to vehicles and trucks where stowaways sleep; Ships that have to turn in the middle of the bay channel to return to the dock when the presence of stowaways is alerted … There is an abundant casuistry.

The repeated assault attempts, no matter how much they have caused falls and the breakage of a bone, are not more serious for now, but also because luck accompanies. Recently, a stowaway had to be rescued from the water when he was trying to enter a cement vessel by climbing the mooring to the bollard.

It is the Albanian mafias that provide information and advice to seek the best penetration opportunities not only in Santander, but also in Asturias. The Balkan mafia, which includes the Albanian, owner of the cocaine traffic in the United Kingdom, relocates the Albanian irregular in their money laundering businesses: if they manage to enter the United Kingdom they have many ballots to end up working in laundries, bars , supermarkets and restaurants of the mafia network.

This pilots your movements from your departure from Albania, which usually costs between 3,000 and 6,000 euros until your stay at destination. It also provides cash if needed, accumulates maps and information on practices, unsuccessful and successful attempts and information on the movement of trucks and ships to generate opportunities. There are even organized assaults at two points simultaneously in which failure in one is exploited for success in the other.

Police pressure and social mobilization

The settlement of Albanians in the ‘Hotel Albania’ has been going on for at least two years in unworthy conditions. Its existence has generated a movement of citizen solidarity, especially during 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Organizations such as Pasaje Seguro, in addition, and especially after the concertina installation scandal, have once again taken up their critical stance with Spanish immigration policy.

On the other side, the National Police maintains a close mark on the Albanian refugees in the settlement, from whom it frequently requests documentation and files in some cases for irregular stay in the country, not only there but also in nearby bars where they throw the mornings waiting for nightfall.

During the confinement, the Police prevented residents of Nueva Montaña from approaching the settlement to provide food and water. Whoever did it was fined for violating the provisions of the state of emergency.

The institutions, on the other hand, have not intervened. The Santander City Council has not provided any social assistance, nor has any union organization shown special interest in them. In fact, and according to witnesses, the port works council has privately conveyed the message that “first those from here, and then foreigners”, coming to classify young Albanians, between 18 and 30 years old, as “ex-military professionals, who jump over the fence and jump everything.”

The truth is that the situation of the Albanians is not causing any political initiative. Parliament, except for some PSOE deputy, has turned its back on this group of irregular migrants for some time, who are institutionally marked as a risk to economic activity and potential criminals who roam the streets of Santander.