January 28, 2021

The Canary Islands, a crossing point for few migrants and prison for many


The Mogán Local Police received a notice on the night of December 17. A man who arrived in Gran Canaria by boat had injured himself. The Maghreb had wounds on his hands and forehead and the guards at the hotel where he was staying had to “put the shackles” on him to prevent further damage. The police report to which this newspaper has had access says that a translator had to go to the complex to reassure him because he was “very upset” and, furthermore, in a state of intoxication. When the translator arrived, the man told him that he was so nervous because he had twice taken out two tickets to travel to the Peninsula, but he had not been allowed to travel and he had lost all the money.

'Caged' migrants in the Canary Islands: "Sometimes i think i'm going crazy"

‘Caged’ migrants in the Canary Islands: “Sometimes I think I’m going crazy”

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In the last months of 2020, the National Police ordered police reinforcement at Canarian airports and also from different parts of the Peninsula, hiding behind health controls to stop COVID-19. When they are intercepted, some are arrested and others are released. This police deployment came after criticism of the Government of Spain for the displacement of hundreds of migrants by their own means to other autonomous communities. The hoaxes promoted by the Popular Party and Vox pointed to the Interior Ministry as the organizer of these flights, accusing Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska of promoting a “call effect”.

This Friday the Provincial National Police Station opened a disciplinary file to the inspector responsible for the border post of the Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén Airport, to determine if he is responsible for “not identifying the Maghreb citizens” who arrived on a flight from the Canary Islands on last December 14. The Unified Police Union requests the file of the case and indicates that days before the inspector had received an internal note urging the verification of the existence of “possible criminal connections” in the flows of people arriving at the airport.

The expedited agent verified the presence of citizens with Maghreb features on the flight, but they left the airport by public transport like other travelers, without any private vehicle picking them up. “There were no objective elements that would allow carrying out actions of identification and documentary control for the possible commission of crimes,” concludes the SUP. In that case, demanding documentation from these people based on their traits or racial profile is an illegal practice. In addition, when immigrants are released after arriving in Spain by irregular means, they can move freely through the national territory until their deportation takes place.

The psychological consequences of the blockade have already been reported by other people who have been in the Islands for more than three months. Abdel, 37, said he and his family had staked their animals and a lifetime’s savings in order to reach Europe. But the obstacles to being able to move to Valencia have made him lose hope. Hafid, 23, sometimes feels that he is going crazy, but he breathes and convinces himself that it is God who is deciding his path.

In Abdel’s case, he arrived in Gran Canaria with his passport, but it has expired. His renewal could take place at the Moroccan Consulate, but he believes that he will be “cheated”. The lawyer specialized in immigration Daniel Arencibia explains that one of the requirements that the Consulate asks of them is to be registered in the Canary Islands. A requirement that some municipalities such as Mogán and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria block, contributing according to the lawyer to this “stopper”. Arencibia insists that the law establishes that any citizen can register even in a shack, a cave, or a caravan. Sub-dwellings that “can and should appear as valid addresses in the register”. The resolution that dictates the technical instructions to city councils on the management of the municipal register also indicates that the registration of foreigners “will not constitute proof of their legal residence in Spain nor will it attribute any rights to them.”

Official referrals

More than 23,000 people came to the islands by sea last year. Through the Transparency Unit, Daniel Arencibia has obtained data on referrals from the Canary Islands to the Peninsula that have been produced by the Ministry of Migration within the framework of the Humanitarian Attention Program. As of December 11, 2,035 people had been transferred. The Secretary of State for Migration explained that during the validity of the state of alarm, no transfers were made and 70% of the total referrals occurred in September, October and November. To this figure are added the departures of hundreds of people who have been able to leave the Canary Islands by their own means.

The Interior Ministry has also tried to speed up deportations to Morocco and Mauritania. On November 10, 22 people were expelled to Mauritania, only one of whom was a national of the country. The rest came from Senegal (18), Gambia (2) and Guinea-Bissau (1). Starting in December, and a few days after Marlaska’s visit to Rabat, about twenty people were expelled from Gran Canaria to El Aaiún, in the occupied territory of Western Sahara.

The objective of the humanitarian assistance program is “to attend to the state of need of migrants who are in vulnerable situations.” This profile includes those who present physical deterioration, lack of social support, family and economic means. Also those who are part of “settlements that suffer serious social and health risks and require immediate action to remedy them.”

On November 19, 2020, the percentage of occupation of reception places in the Canary Islands was 87%, with 429 places available. Of the total number of places, 10,241 correspond to emergency resources. The seven camps that the department of José Luis Escrivá plans to install in the Archipelago are some of the temporary establishments that will host immigrants in the coming weeks. So far, only CEIP León is in operation, although when the minister announced the Plan Canarias, he stated that the hotels would be “emptied” before December 31. Secretary of State Hana Jalloul assured that the Canarias 50 (Gran Canaria) and El Matorral (Fuerteventura) regiment will also be activated in the coming weeks.

Other autonomous communities offered to host people arriving in the Islands by sea with this profile. However, the occupation in the rest of the regions is also high. Also in the case of unaccompanied foreign minors, some autonomies have offered to host a total of 100 boys and girls who so far remain under the tutelage of the Canary Islands Government. At this time, the regional Executive serves 2,450 minors and, in the face of threats from the Mogán City Council to sanction hotel complexes that house immigrants, the Ministry of Social Rights has protected the use of these establishments for humanitarian purposes. “We have no alternatives for those who are in apartments,” said the general director of Child Protection, Iratxe Serrano.


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