The Canarian boat route breaks its record with more than 1,100 drowned

Refugees go down to the port of Palermo (Italy) by the gangway of the ship that rescued them. / EFE

CEAR demands that Spain apply the "agile" and "successful" model used with Ukraine and Afghanistan to refugees from other countries to avoid the current collapse

Alfonso Torres

Each annual balance of the Spanish Committee for Refugee Assistance (CEAR) is a drama. The obstacles that the first world places on those who seek refuge from hunger, despair or the persecution they suffer in their countries of origin usually result in high risk, hiding and too often death. This year has been no different.

The so-called Atlantic route of the small boats, the one traveled in deplorable conditions and at enormous risk by thousands of immigrants from all over the Gulf of Africa on their way to the Canary Islands, the closest door to Europe, broke its already high record of deaths in 2021. According to CEAR data, a minimum of 1,109 people died aboard the canoes or drowned in the ocean, many of them minors, a figure that reaffirms this main route of clandestine immigration as one of the most dangerous in the world. This mortality is the most dramatic consequence "of the lack of safe reception routes" for refugees in Spain and the EU, the NGO recriminates.

Last year, CEAR highlights in its analysis, the Spanish system for the protection and international reception of refugees showed some points of improvement, but it is still far from giving an adequate response to this drama or reaching at least the average asylum levels of its European partners. Of the 69,891 asylum requests that the Spanish authorities received in 2021, they only granted 7,371, 10.5%. They are few, but even so they are twice the number that were granted in previous years.

Spain is the third European country that receives the most requests for international protection, after Germany and France, which triple and double, respectively, the requests registered in our country. The Government has improved the percentage of favorable reports, but it is still very far from the European average, which authorizes 35% of asylum applications, triple that of Spain. CEAR's analysis indicates that the authorities have been generous with refugees from Mali, by taking in 80% of the petitioners, but on the other hand they have been very restrictive with those from Colombia, Honduras or El Salvador, countries punished by very high rates of of violence, but with a 90% denial of protection.

Six months waiting for an appointment

In addition to the strong restrictions, the biggest problem of the asylum system in Spain, reveals the NGO, is its collapse, due to the lack of means and excessive bureaucratization. The scarcity of appointments and the disparate documentation criteria required depending on which province it is processed in have caused average delays of six to eight months last year not for the resolution of the file but for the mere presentation of the application document.

It is for this reason that the director general of CEAR today demanded "that the processing model used to give an accelerated response to the waves of refugees arriving in Spain from Afghanistan be extended to everyone", regardless of the origin or provenance of the petitioner. , in 2021, due to the crisis caused by the accession to power of the Taliban, and from Ukraine, in 2022, as a result of the Russian invasion.

Estrella Galán highlighted that the "single asylum window" system is agile, achieves "a quick response" and, furthermore, is an example of "good practices", which allowed refugee status to be granted in just six months to 60% of the almost 1,900 Afghans who arrived in Spain and made it possible this spring to temporarily extend the international protection regime to 75,000 Ukrainians. It is the demonstration, she insisted as a summary, that the Spanish protection and reception system, if you will, can be agile and effective.

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