The President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres chaired the inaugural session of the Canary Immigration Forum, to appeal to the Spanish State and the EU, from the Presidency headquarters in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria earlier in September, with participation from the Secretary of State for Migration, Hana Jalloul, the President the Civil Liberties and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the Minister of Social Rights, Noemí Santana, Spain’s Government delegate to the Canary Islands, Anselmo Pestana, representatives of the island and local administrations, socio-economic agents of the archipelago and ONGs (via telematics) to discuss the need urgent to open existing public spaces in the Canary Islands “to serve migrants with dignity, in addition to expediting their transit urgently to the European continent,” said the president. In this sense, he remarked that from the Canary Islands up to seven school residences have been assigned to house migrants of legal age, whose competence is the Government of Spain.

Ángel Víctor Torres said the Forum had been productive and, “not being a simple situation, I trust that the meetings that are going to be held immediately between ministries so that the pertinent measures are arbitrated, will bear fruit”. The president of the Canary Islands insisted that, in addition to having adequate facilities that are owned by the State and which are currently free, external surveillance must be reinforced. This Forum is an advisory and consultation body of the Government of the Canary Islands on immigration matters appealling to the Spanish State and “it is the most appropriate area to seek solutions among all those involved,” said Torres.

The president, as well as voicing his appeal to the Spanish State, sent a message to the European institutions, so that solidarity mechanisms are activated “because we cannot wait any longer. It cannot be that there are hundreds of people in tents in the Port of Arguineguín”, he pointed out. Given the current situation, with people fleeing their countries due to extreme poverty, famines, persecution, or coups, – circumstances that are aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic-, “the migratory phenomenon reaching the southern border cannot end here. Europe cannot turn its back on this situation because we will be failing in the concept of the European Union, of which the Canary Islands are part as an outermost region, ”Torres remarked.

Noemí Santana, indicated that “we must have a network of stable resources in the Canary Islands and an open regime and that is why we ask the Spanish Government for more and better means, not only human but material, and Europe, to remember its border South is the Canary Islands ”. In this regard, Santana demanded a coordinated and joint work between Europe, the State and the Canary Islands, which makes it essential that “the Canary Islands participate on a state level in the areas in which the issue of immigration is addressed.”

Regarding the reception and care of unaccompanied foreign minors, the Minister of Social Rights demanded “a specific fund for the regions with the greatest pressure to care for minors” and recalled that, while in August 2019, the Canary Islands had a protection network with 328 sheltered foreign minors, the figure is currently more than 730, “a figure that will continue to increase with the continued arrival of boats to our shores.”

“The Canary Islands today have fewer resources than ten years ago, with which we must carry out a self-criticism and make more resources available for the care of this population,” said the counsellor, who clarified that the current Canary Islands Government has done their duty and has enabled in recent months a total of nine emergency resources for the reception of unaccompanied foreign minors, a matter in which the regional Executive is competent.

Agreed proposals

The representatives of the Forum worked on a document of conclusions to appeal to the Spanish State that contemplates, among other measures, the establishment of a Fund for the Reception and Integration of Immigrants, as it existed until 2011, within the General State Budgets, with a significant increase in the allocation of funds for migration management and the improvement of the Integrated External Surveillance System (SIVE), as well as the establishment of stable accommodation resources for the care of migrants, and the need to develop periodic Canary Islands coordination meetings -State and renewal of the Africa Plan with special emphasis on the economic and social development of the countries of the African Atlantic front, are just some of the measures that the Canary Immigration Forum agreed at the meeting in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, in order to refer the matter to the Spanish State.

In addition, the urgent renewal of the Action Plan on unaccompanied minors (2010-2014) was proposed, as well as the provision of a specific item of funds for regions that, such as the Canary Islands, receive a greater number of unaccompanied foreign minors so as to be able to offer concrete answers to the challenges posed by their arrival in the EU.

The President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, stressed the need to open new public spaces for the reception of migrants and speed up their transit to the European continent

The Minister of Social Rights, Noemí Santana, recalled that the Canary Islands have opened in recent months a total of nine emergency centres for the reception of foreign minors, an area in which the Canary Islands Government holds competence