The arrival of more than 16,000 migrants to the Canary Islands has overwhelmed the Administrations and forced the central government to place this migratory crisis among its priorities for action. The constant disembarkation of boats has shown the inability to receive, attend and adequately welcome the newcomers. Peaks such as that of last weekend, with more than 2,000 migrants arriving on the islands, forced La Moncloa to undertake shock measures, among them, multiplying diplomatic efforts to increase returns and curb the departure of cayucos and boats at origin. .
The five ministries involved, Migration, Interior, Foreign, Defense and Territorial Policy, are right now focused on the Canarian crisis. Faced with friction between departments, the first vice president, Carmen Calvo, has assumed the baton of the measures with which the Government intends to control a migration route that had been with little activity for more than a decade.
There have been at least two meetings at the highest level and many others at second levels or of a technical nature. Moncloa already has this issue as one of the most important on its agenda. Defense, which was reluctant to get involved, has finally been activated and has given four disused spaces to receive and welcome migrants and thus avoid the overcrowding of the last months in the Gran Canaria dock of Arguineguín, on whose ground they have reached sleeping more than 2,000 people.
The great political concern is that this issue could be used by Vox for its anti-immigration discourse and that a false link between immigration and covid is exploited. The president of the Canary Islands, the socialist Víctor Torres, is pressing all the ministers involved to speed up a solution because this issue has become a political powder keg on the islands. The Government believes that, with the measures of recent days, the problem is beginning to be controlled and trusts that the arrival of winter, which usually follows a lower pattern of arrivals, will offer a truce. The alert, however, is maximum because no one expected numbers that had not been seen since 2006. The pace has also accelerated and in just one month it has gone from 8,100 entries, accumulated until October 15, to more than 16,000 current.
The leading role in the management, as happened in 2018 when Spain registered a historical record of 64,300 irregular entries, will fall on the Interior. The aim is to strengthen police cooperation with countries of origin and transit and multiply the number of return flights. Last Monday, the first plane left for Mauritania with 22 people on board, after eight months suspended due to border closures. The recipe has the same ingredients with which the socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero stopped the crisis of the cayucos of 2006, when 31,000 people landed in the archipelago.
The Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, proposes that more referrals to the Peninsula be provided to alleviate the pressure on the host network on the islands, but the rest of the ministers involved do not want to hear about these transfers. They consider that it causes a call effect and Interior only authorizes them in small groups and avoiding any publicity. The formula that has been imposed is to keep the newcomers in camps set up in military compounds and to try to deport as many people as possible.
It will not be easy and, in any case, there are many aspects that are beyond the control of the Government. The Spanish secret services have identified thousands of possible candidates for emigration concentrated mainly in Morocco, but also in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. The security forces of all these countries are overwhelmed by the pandemic and the socio-economic crisis that it has caused, and the control of emigration is not their priority right now, admit sources from the Executive. That is why Spain will try to help them with more funds and other types of support.
The pandemic is also a key factor in the migratory flows that are bringing thousands of people to the islands. On the one hand, it limits movements through migratory routes other than the Canary Islands and, on the other, it is spurring the exodus of thousands of workers dependent on the tourism sector or the underground economy who have been left with nothing. Many of the immigrants who are arriving obey this pattern, say Executive sources.
Faced with the worsening of the situation, Foreign Affairs has also assumed a relevant role to support a foreign policy of the State – and not only of the Interior – with the main African partners. This year, Minister Arancha González Laya has visited frequently the countries most emitting emigrants (Mali, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger and Chad). Laya will visit Senegal, the origin of more and more cayucos, on the 22nd and, two days before, the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, will return to Morocco, whose nationals are more than half of the occupants of the boats arriving in the last two months. Moncloa also wants to involve the EU economically and diplomatically.
Silence of Podemos
The members of United We Can are outside the ministries with migration powers and, although last February they did raise their voices to oppose the judgment of the Strasbourg Court that endorsed the hot returns, on this occasion they are silent. At that time there were tense meetings and a clear confrontation between Iglesias and Grande-Marlaska over the management of the Ceuta and Melilla border, but now Unidos Podemos has chosen to remain in the background.
Despite defending as a principle an approach of respect for the rights of migrants in the face of a more attentive vision to security, the partners of the coalition Government have not publicly pronounced on the measures to be taken, nor on the conditions in which Hundreds (and up to two thousand) of migrants have been crowded into Arguineguín for months. Nor in the face of evidence that the majority of those who arrive are not being guaranteed the legal assistance to which they are entitled by law. Government sources admit that the discomfort of United We Can is important, because this issue is central to them.
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