LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA – The Canary Islands are known as holiday resorts, but are now experiencing an increasing number of migrant arrivals every day. In the style of Italy’s Lampedusa, the island community is facing more than 32,000 arrivals this year.
The situation that this creates on the islands is considered untenable by local administrators and residents. The island of El Hierro in particular is overloaded. It has only 11,000 inhabitants and is faced with an influx that it cannot handle. This year, 12,000 refugees have already arrived on the small island. Island President Armas stated that they do not have the resources to care for the newcomers. To illustrate, he says that even the local bakery is not prepared for such a sudden increase in demand.
The refugees are currently finding temporary shelter in the monastery. There are no asylum centres. Hundreds of people have also been transferred to larger Canary Islands such as Tenerife in recent weeks. Furthermore some migrants have been sent to the Spanish mainland to regions like the Basque Country.
Crisis in Senegal
The vast majority of refugees come from sub-Saharan countries, local authorities said. It is believed that the increase in arrivals in the Canary Islands is related to the political and social crisis in Senegal.
A cry for help
That is why the island government is asking Madrid and the EU for “extraordinary and urgent” measures. Canary Islands leader Clavijo criticises the central government for inaction and indifference to the migration issue. “We are stunned and dismayed by the silence of a Spanish government that seems completely indifferent to the events surrounding migration and the pressures facing all the Canary Islands,” he said.
The changing route of refugees
Increased border controls along Africa’s west coast have led to migrants taking a longer and more dangerous route deeper into the Atlantic Ocean. More than 421 people have died or gone missing on this route this year, according to UNHCR.