Nothing is known of 2,000 people who set out on the Canarian route by boat this year from the African continent. Another 500 are known to have died on the way, and more than 10,000 have managed to survive the journey that is perpetuated as the most dangerous access to Europe. Three weeks from now will be a year of the quarter that left a record of boats and people arriving in the Canary Islands by sea and the intensity of the route is expected to continue, as well as deaths. This time the administrations rule out a new reception crisis and intend to redouble their efforts in locating the disappeared and deceased.
It was in November 2020 when the reception and the first attention to migrants left stamps “of shame” in the autonomous community. The lack of a stable network of reception resources and the absence of fixed spaces in which to conduct the police report pushed thousands of people, including children and pregnant women, to spend weeks in port ships and precarious camps such as Arguineguín. The emergency solution that the State found was to provide humanitarian purposes to the hotels and apartments closed by the pandemic and to install a CATE (Temporary Attention Center for Foreigners) on a military land.
Pressure from some political groups and businessmen for the Ministry of Migration to empty the migrant tourist complexes forced the central government to devise the Plan Canarias. Within the framework of this project, the department of José Luis Escrivá installed six emergency macrocamps in the Archipelago: two in Tenerife, three in Gran Canaria and one in Fuerteventura.
This network of centers was proposed as a temporary solution. Migrations assured that the necessary works would be done to convert the camps into stable facilities. Even so, these emergency resources continue to be made up of tents and their conditions continue to be criticized by different organizations. In February of this year, the migrants sheltered in the old military barracks of La Isleta, the Canarias 50 regiment, denounced through a video that the tents in which they slept were flooded with fecal water. In Tenerife, users criticized that there was not enough food in Las Raices and that there was only cold water in the showers. After its visit to the Canary Islands, Amnesty International demanded “urgent measures” to guarantee decent living conditions for migrants in the centers of the Plan Canarias and asked that their physical and mental well-being be ensured.
In spite of everything, these establishments are now the main tool of the Islands to face a possible rebound. According to the latest data compiled by the Government Delegation, dating from September 2, 2,098 people remain sheltered in the Canary Islands. Of these, 899 are distributed in camps of the Plan Canarias, whose occupancy is 18%, having a total of 7,000 places distributed between the centers of El Matorral, Las Raíces, Las Canteras, the Bankia Ship, the CEIP León and the Canarias barracks. fifty.
So far this year, migratory pressure has been concentrated in the eastern province, with an intense flow of arrivals in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. In the case of Lanzarote, the high number of boats that arrive by their own means to the island stands out. The same happens in La Graciosa, a small island with just over 700 inhabitants where some barges have made landfall without being seen by rescue teams.
From the Caminando Fronteras collective, founded by the activist Helena Maleno, they add that they receive fewer alerts from the Lanzarote route. “They tend to be Moroccans who leave Agadir, Safi and Sidi Ifni, and their boats arrive in better condition.”
Different temporary points have been set up on this island to offer the first assistance to migrants, such as sports pavilions or industrial warehouses. The Ministry of the Interior has advanced to this writing that it is carrying out “steps” to find the most suitable locations to install a Temporary Attention Center for Foreigners (CATE).
More inflatable boats at sea
Some of the differences between the arrivals of 2020 and those of 2021 is the increase in inflatable boats in which migrants travel. Many of the shipwrecks are carried out by people who travel in this type of boat. The group Caminando Fronteras already warned in July that the precariousness of this type of barge adds to the “zero experience of navigation” of those who are on board. Both circumstances favor that people “easily lose their way.”
The increase in pneumatics has been identified especially in the departures of El Aaiún, in Western Sahara. Many of the alerts that Caminando Fronteras receives from this type of vessel end in tragedy.
Despite the danger of the Canarian route and the succession of deaths, one of the pending tasks is to identify the deceased and locate the missing. The UN already asked Spain in June of this year for “clear protocols” for the search, investigation and identification of missing migrants on their migratory journey. This year, the Red Cross has assured that it will redouble its efforts to reestablish contact between migrants arriving in the Canary Islands and their families.
During the 2020 migration crisis, dozens of relatives traveled to the Islands to try to locate their loved ones among the thousands of people who survived the ocean, in the absence of a telephone number or other means of contact. Among them was Tarek, a young man who landed in Gran Canaria from Denmark to find his brother at the Arguineguín dock. He didn’t know if Yassine was there, or if he was dead or alive. Four hours later he was able to tell his mother, who was waiting impatiently in Morocco, that he had found him. He had been in the port for two weeks, held by the National Police and exceeding the maximum of 72 hours in police custody established by law.
To avoid a repeat of the overflow experienced by this port in the south of Gran Canaria last year, as well as the shortcomings in legal assistance and errors in the affiliation of migrants, the Red Cross is working on the installation of modules on the dock. The purpose is “that staff can improve humanitarian care.”
The Las Palmas Bar Association has also published a guide to avoid reproducing Arguineguín’s errors. The document emphasizes that all persons have the right to an individual and reserved interview and emphasizes that lawyers cannot sign a return order without having previously spoken with the person concerned. In 2020, Spain ordered the expulsion of people who had not had a single interview with a lawyer. In other cases, people who could request international protection due to their sexual orientation took months to do so because they did not have access to a solo interview and for fear of suffering consequences from their compatriots.