MADRID – In the space of 72 hours, more than 500 immigrants arrived in 30 boats in the southern Spanish port city of Almeria. The temporary shelter is overcrowded. The Red Cross has quarantined some of the immigrants after one of them tested positive for Covid.
The Red Cross is still waiting for the test results of the people now in quarantine. It concerns an influx of boats that reached the country uncontrolled. Their arrival has created a bursting temporary reception centre (CATE) in the port in Almeria.
The authorities had to use resources from the National Police and Guardia Civil. According to Diario de Almería, about 80 people, mainly of Algerian descent, have been transferred to the CATE in Malaga and a further 35 to Motril. Mass movements are also planned in buses and police vans to the reception centers in Algeciras and Barcelona.
The union of Guardia Civil agents (AUGC) denounced the situation that led to 30 immigrants staying in the sun for hours in vehicles without air-conditioning. This was a result of a long queue at the reception centre caused by extra security measures. Once inside, no water could be provided to a group of Algerians, including women and children, until the PCR tests were performed; as the protocol of the facilities in the port states.
Coastguard employees not yet vaccinated
The CGT union criticises the fact that, despite the risky work, members of the Spanish Coast Guard have not yet been vaccinated. Nor have they been given priority. This is despite the fact they are in constant and direct contact with hundreds of immigrants; they therefore run a greater risk of contamination. In other regions, agents of the Coast Guard and employees of the Red Cross received vaccination as employees of essential services and state security agencies. In addition, insufficient protective equipment is available.
The CGT Mar y Puertos union recalls in the event of a contamination on board, the unit would be completely out of action for days. This would pose an issue in a province facing a permanent influx of boats carrying immigrants.
‘Unfortunate working conditions’ for Guardia Civil
The Guardia Civil (AUGC) union also denounces the ‘unfortunate’ working conditions under which police officers in Almería province have to work. In addition, there is a lack of measures and resources to deal with the pandemic. They receive too little and inadequate material, have to work too long hours. Furthermore, due to the long waiting times as a result of the health protocols, they are often exclusively responsible for too many people for too long.
In addition, the standard ‘prevents’ the provision of water to immigrants who have not yet undergone a PCR test. An inhumane situation given the high temperatures of the past few days.
All of this is happening in a province the union says has been ‘punished and forgotten’ by the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense. Neither are providing enough resources or assistance, they claim.
The agents are pushing for the implementation of important measures, such as clear protocols, with adequate resources, personnel and measures in light of the ‘avalanche’ of migrants entering. Otherwise, the consequences could be fatal.
Since the beginning of April, the arrival of immigrants has almost doubled from the year before. Now, in May, again large numbers of immigrants are arriving by land, sea and air. There are nowhere near sufficient reception capacities.
Poor prospects in countries of origin
Due to the corona pandemic, more and more immigrants are coming from countries such as Libya and Tunisia. There, unemployment is high and the prospects for the youth are also minimal. Earlier this year, the Canary Islands had to deal with a massive influx of boat refugees. Now there seems to be a shift to other ports in the Mediterranean.
Figures from UNHRC show that more than 8,000 migrants arrived in Spain up to April this year. In the same period last year, this was about 2,000 fewer.