In a shrewd master stroke of resources management and public collaboration, at a time of real crisis, it has come to light this Friday morning that hoteliers, on the south of Gran Canaria, have stepped forward and shown willingness to allow their empty, closed establishments to be utilised as emergency temporary accommodation for irregular migrants, who have arrived in open boats over recent weeks, and for whom the central government has not been able to provide any suitable accommodation or resources.

It took until Wednesday, with more than 200 people crammed into a half dozen tents on the port of Arguineguín, Gran Canaria, before the Spanish Government Delegation thought to contact the Federation of Hospitality and Tourism Entrepreneurs (FEHT) to ask for their collaboration. The businessmen expressed their intention to collaborate, quickly making their facilities available to accommodate the rescued people from a situation that has on occasion threatened to overwhelm local administrations, at a time when resources are stretched and local services already steeped in hardship and uncertainty.

These are simple apartments that offer basic accomodation to help resolve an important issue about which many have been warning for some time, and to which the Spanish state government have not been able to supply a solution until now. These “Modest but dignified” apartments will serve for the moment to address the stark lack of facilities which the rise in irregular migration over the last year has exposed.

Taking into account the general current state of affairs and harsh economic climate, the president of the FEHT, José María Mañaricua, said yesterday “how can it be otherwise”, beleaguered hoteliers and property managers will of course be in a position to offer accommodation for irregular migrants and work to help the Government. First, to address the appalling situation of people having to live for days on end, under canvas in the port of Arguineguín, many of whom had by Wednesday been there, forcibly encamped, for more than five days on a concrete pier that does not meet even the minimum health and safety conditions; and second because “we have an obligation not to allow anyone to be on the streets.” Mañaricua recalled images of homeless people at the airports of Gran Canaria or Tenerife South and stressed that hoteliers are not going to stay out of the problem. “We have responded immediately, we have provided the necessary information and we have stated that we are ready to help;”

Spanish Minister for Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, is to visit the Canary Islands next week to analyse the systems for detecting boats and the reception conditions for migrants. This was announced at a press conference by Regional Government spokesman, Julio Pérez, who pointed out that the situation with the increase in vessels arriving over recent days and weeks is to be addressed, and in particular the fact that several vessels arrived to the islands this week almost completely undetected.

Pérez went on to say that the Regional Executive has demanded that the Spanish State improve detection and surveillance on the frontiers to achieve greater control on the movement of migrants “who want to get to Europe”.

More than 100 migrants, according to the first calculations, arrived on Thursday to add to the more than 1,400 people who have arrived by boat and have been staying at various accommodations on Gran Canaria, some in the port of Arguineguín tents, and up to a hundred crowded into inadequate facilities in the town of Arinaga. More than 4,000 people are known to have arrived to the islands in open boats since the beginning of this year, representing an increase of nearly 580% compared to the same period in 2019, when just 584 made landfall. 

Racists, conspiracy theorists and outraged xenophobes trying to stir up trouble

In a somewhat sickening display of ignorance and negativity, today, several videos began to circulate on social networks, purportedly depicting the people transferred to accommodation for irregular migrants on the south of Gran Canaria, where they are supposedly seen enjoying pools or sunbeds. These images in pretty much every case do not reflect the reality of the situation, using mislabeled images, and outright lies, seeking to sow xenophobia and discontent among a population already trying to navigate the serious economic consequences of the health crisis.

From what we understand, the only accurate image published all day was the one at the top of this report showing those unfortunate and confused migrants lining up to enter the apartment complexes assigned by FEHT itself in response to the emergency request for help in resolving the situation generated by the increases in boats carrying more people than the reception system can functionally accommodate. 

Following the news earlier today that some migrants had begun to be housed in empty tourist apartment complexes in the South, videos claiming to show these migrants relaxing and bathing in swimming pools began to circulate across the internet, yet these videos, to the best of our knowledge are completely false. The apartments in questions are being managed by the Red Cross and, for security reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, all leisure and common use areas, swimming pools, solariums and sports fields are closed. The migrants are being accommodated in these apartments temporarily.