Category: Migrants Gran Canaria

Latest Gran Canaria News, Views & Sunshine

The Canary Guide #WeekendTips 31 March – 2 April 2023


 A glorious first weekend of April ahead and the beginning of the christian Holy Week “Semana Santa”, diligently observed in Spain. There will be many religious acts and processions throughout the week around the island, especially in the capital.  Don’t forget it’s also April fools’ on Saturday even though it isn’t a tradition in Spain, there will be those who will take the whimsical opportunity for some hilarity. The Mercado Inglés is on at The British Club of Las Palmas and there is also an authentic Canarian rural fair to visit this weekend in the traditional mountain market town of San Mateo.

Gran Canaria Weather: Yellow Warnings – Up to 36ºC, in the shade, expected on the south, high temperatures with strong winds and calima expected to affect all The Canary Islands this week

The Spanish State Meterological Agency, AEMET, has issued yellow warnings for heat, calima haze and strong winds this week on the Canary Islands forecasting high temperatures of up to 34ºC expected on several islands. An alert has been issued due to a risk of forest fires on Gran Canaria as the mix of dry weather, strong winds and high temperatures has led to concerns over coming days.


Wild fires Alert on Gran Canaria this Wednesday, with temperatures set to exceed 34ºC in the shade

Springtime has only just begun and already the temperatures, in the shade, on Gran Canaria have been repeatedly hitting the low to mid-thirties, which brings with it also a rising risk of Forest Fires and Wildfires.  Here in the Canary Islands forest fire crews are well versed in tackling an occasional mountain blaze, with alert levels often following the basic informal rule of thumb, the so-called 30/30/30 rule, putting the authorities on alert whenever the temperature is set to rise above 30ºC in the shade, the humidity levels drop below 30% and sustained winds are forecast at faster than 30kmph.  Common sense and preparation help the general population to avoid injury in the event of a fire taking hold.

The Canary Guide #WeekendTips 24-26 March 2023

Plum tree blossoming in Tenteniguada March 2023
It’s the last weekend of March already and Spring is here; winter is behind us and the summer weather is already hotting up on Gran Canaria. The hillsides are in full bloom, particularly up in the mountain summits; it’s Carnival Weekend in Arguineguín and the last of the carnival festivities for this year are happening around the island. With summer just around the corner, clocks Spring forward this Saturday and Sunday night when 1am becomes 2am 🕐. On the north of the island, one of the biggest seasonal trade fairs is happening, gathering produce and people from 11 municipalities, ENORTE will be celebrated in the historic Rum capital of the island, Arucas, this weekend.


Canary Islands Migration: Ukraine war exasperating food shortages, poverty and unrest in the West African Sahel

Special ReportTimon .:.
Without being overly sensationalist, it would be fair to say that, a perfect storm has been brewing for some time in Western Africa.  The Canary Islands is a region on the frontier, and needs to avoid allowing fear to drive decision making.
The war in Ukraine may seem very far away, however the disruption to global cereal supplies, those blocked in Black Sea ports, or worse still not harvested all, is adding a growing food crisis to the problems that already existed. There are reports this is now beginning to fuel riots and social unrest in the Sahel, putting at risk the difficult balance that has been maintained over the last two years or so. These problems are not new.
 Feature Image© UNOCHA: Michele CattaniA young woman carries water in a camp for displaced people in Tillaberi region, Niger.

Food shortages in this vast arid region, which includes Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria, could easily become the final straw for several populations already suffering extreme hardship, and ever-increasing water poverty, as well as the active presence of jihadist groups looking to control resources and establish North African strongholds, which in turn attracts Russian mercenaries, like the Wagner Group (a secretive military organisation who prop up enfeebled governments often suffering from corruption themselves, in return for vast wealth and natural resources, and who, though they claim to be independent, in fact have very strong proven links to the Kremlin). Then there are the various types of organised crime that flourish in such environments. All of which gives rise to extreme circumstances, including forced displacements of native populations, and violent conflict.
Economic paralysis caused by the pandemic has been compounded by the withdrawals of international support troops, cuts to funding for NGOs on the ground, runaway inflation, unpredictable harvests ever more pronounced due to climate change, high population growth rates (between 2.8% and 3.8%) and growing hunger.  The UN have warned of the coming “Unprecedented Hunger Crisis”
Once again, as happened in 2019 and 2020, various organisations and institutions are now warning that a new wave of migration will be headed towards Europe.
The Canary Islands stand at Europe’s southernmost frontier. While Western Sahara is just over 100km east of here, occupied and controlled by Morocco whose US military and diplomatic ties grow ever-stronger; the Mauritanian coasts, to the south east, are just 778 kilometres away; and Senegal is further south still, some 1,311km from here, almost exactly the same distance to the north separates Las Palmas de Gran Canaria from Cádiz. Even if it is not yet evident to everyone, the archipelago really is in the middle of all this.
This week an action plan, drawn up in Brussels, assessing the ongoing consequences of the war in Ukraine, gravely points to the likelihood of “a catastrophic famine” in the countries of North Africa. An internal report commissioned by the European Council warns that the tension Ukraine adds to the situation with food security increases the risk of triggering “new waves of migration to the EU” with Spain and Italy on the front line.
The European Council estimate around 30% of global maize and wheat supplies come from Ukraine and Russia, with at least 20 million tons unable to leave Ukrainian ports and that 47 million more people will likely be affected by acute food insecurity in 2022

Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, who is also the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, this week wrote:
“For several decades, hunger was declining and the international community committed to end it globally by 2030 with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted in 2015. However, since then, the number of undernourished people has stopped decreasing and the COVID-19 pandemic has already made things much worse. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that this number has risen from 132 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic to 276 million in early 2022 and 323 million today.”

Europe estimates that 40 million tons of cereal are blocked in the Black Sea ports
EU Member States this month managed to unblock progress on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum,  just a few days ago, reaching an agreement on a voluntary solidarity mechanism for the distribution of refugees. It underlines that relocations should primarily benefit the countries within the Union that face landings after search and rescue operations both in the Eastern Atlantic – the Canarian route – and in the Mediterranean.  There are those who believe this pact does not go anywhere near far enough, with “voluntary solidarity” having already so often failed to function as intended, leaving the countries and regions of first contact to try to cope with increasing arrivals.
Food security: EU to step up its support to African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
A total of 8,582 people have arrived already this year to the Archipelago, between January and June 15, which is 2,884 more people than during the same period last year, in fact 50.4% more; while the 3,478 maritime arrivals to the Balearics and Mainland are significantly lower (-26.7% year on year), the canary islands figures actually produce an overall increase of more than 14% for maritime arrivals, and nearly 20% overall, when you include arrivals by land. Even with the so-called “Good neighbours” treaty having been signed in April, between the Spanish and Moroccan governments, which entailed much greater controls over migrants leaving for Spain, the continued increase in numbers arriving to these islands has been a shock to those trying to deal with the consequences of these migratory flows.  Perhaps less so for those trying to shift attention on to the origins and causes.

Western Sahara, a government in exile, and the longest offshore gas pipeline in the world:
Despite Spain’s best efforts, recently, to work with Morocco on prevention, resulting in reports of much higher numbers of migrants now being stopped from leaving Moroccan shores on open boats, it seems the numbers attempting the crossing to this archipelago are still climbing.  This comes even as Spain has appeared to perform an about turn, on their entrenched position of recent decades regarding Western Sahara, by offering tacit support to Morocco’s settlement proposals, which, at first glance, seem to disregard decades of concerted resistance from the native population, many tens of thousands of whom have lived in refugee camps for nearly 50 years now (represented by the Polisario government in exile, and cautiously supported by Algeria), as well as apparently discarding decades of opposition from the UN and other EU member states.  It’s clear that much more will need to be done to try to stem the migratory flows, which have their origins in countries across the Sahel.
Gas pipelines planned to connect Nigeria with Morocco & Europe
There are, too, many more reasons for concern in the region, with increased US military support for Morocco, and Algeria’s longstanding opposition to the nearly half a century of illegal occupation in Western Sahara, not to mention the now well-established plans for two major gas pipelines stretching from Nigeria to the mediterranean, both connected to Morocco, one straddling Algeria, and the other, Atlantic pipeline, set to connect 13 West African countries to the Nigerian gas fields, including Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania, and through those territories to the mediterranean coast and then, it is planned, Europe.
According to a press release issued by the Australian company Worley, the company chosen to carry out the preliminary studies for the project and design the pipeline:

“When completed, the more than 7,000-kilometre-long pipeline, promoted by Morocco’s National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), will connect Nigeria to Morocco, cross 13 West African countries and extend to Europe. It will be the longest offshore pipeline in the world and the second longest overall”. 

Here on the Islands, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs have not yet dismantled the camps they so hastily, and belatedly, set up in 2020 as a result of the migratory rebound (which had been warned of for at least a year prior). 23,023 individuals arrived on these shores, during the initial period of pandemic responses, compounding problems was a complete ban on international travel, with tourists unable to fly and migrants unable to leave.  It was the largest surge of arrivals since what is known as “the crisis of the cayucos” back in 2006, when the Canary Islands received 31,678 migrants arriving on open boats and cayucos (small, open canoe-like boats). The Ministry has instead, quietly, launched improvement works to the Temporary Foreigners Care Centre (CATE) on Lanzarote, and to the main shelter for minors and mothers in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. And despite La Laguna Town Council’s announcements, on Tenerife, nor has the heralded closure of the old Las Raíces military barracks camp come to fruition.
With spaces available for up to 7,000 people across the island, and the estimated numbers of migrants living in those camps having fallen to less than 1,000 by the beginning of this year, it seems clear that the Government of Spain is now doing what it can to prepare for a further surge.
According to the FAO – the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation – the number of people in need of food assistance in West African countries rose from 7 million to 27 million, over the last decade and a half, and estimates that if aid is not articulated internationally and supplied urgently, that number could grow by another 10 million or more by the end of this summer. The picture is getting ever more complicated.
The priority set by the European Commission, in its logistics support plan, rests on the search for export routes so that the cereals currently blocked in the Black Sea might instead leave by train or by road, and so can be exported. Both Ukraine and Russia – against whom multiple sanctions condition their international trade – are among the main grain exporting countries in the world. Ukraine distributes around 10% of the world’s wheat, 13% of barley, 15% of millet and more than half of all sunflower oil, according to data provided by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies to Casa África. Millions of tons of food – Brussels calculates 40 million – are being stored, waiting for a fluid exit to be agreed, taking into account that up to five million tons per month would usually have left by sea. African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to UN figures, quoted by Spanish language daily La Provincia.
The de facto blockade of food supplies brings with it worrying increases in food prices particularly in the more fragile regions, such as the Sahel. The African Development Bank has reported a 45% increase in wheat prices on the continent on top of a 20-30% increase in the overall price of food in the last five years throughout West Africa.
Add to this, on top of soaring fuel prices, the shortage of goods transport containers, that became apparent around the globe with the start of the covid-19 pandemic. This will hamper any efforts to establish alternative supply sources, which even if they are identified would take many months or, more likely, years to be established. Meanwhile people will still have to eat.
To make matters worse, even before the invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, the World Food Program had been warning that this would be a difficult year: China, the world’s largest wheat producer, is facing one of the worst harvests in its history after floods that last year devastated the central province of Henan; and India, ranking second in the world, has just paralysed exports due to the severe drought that the country is suffering from with crop yields much reduced. This has not been caused by the situation in Ukraine, the WFP have been warning for some time of a starvation catastrophe, but war has now accelerated the worst predictions for the foreseeable future.
Worse still, there is also a problem with our trying to increase local production. Russia and its ally Belarus are two of the world’s largest exporters of fertiliser, which is crucial for intensive farming and production, let alone any increases to local production, and both countries are now limiting sales. At the same time, the rise in energy prices, further exasperated by the war, has led to the closure of large factories in Europe which might otherwise have sought to fill the gap in the global fertiliser supply.

Editor’s Thoughts:
This is a perfect storm, with no clear solutions.  We are going to have to weather it, and help as many as we can.  What is clear is that simply disagreeing with migration is not going to make it go away. 
Paying Morocco to stop hungry people getting into boats, is not going to stop them being hungry, and it is certainly not going to dissuade them risking what little they still have, including their lives, in the search for security. 
In the absence of any clear plan to effectively tackle the root causes of migration, and certainly not any time soon, we are going to need to figure out how we, as a community, will deal with millions of people on the move from West Africa, and tens of thousands, possibly more, arriving on these shores. 
Either we will value our humanity, and try to find positive and constructive ways to react, working with a situation far beyond our control; or we will allow misinformation, ignorance and anger to drive whatever happens next.  Misplaced anger rarely solves hunger but it can certainly put communities at real risk of tearing themselves apart, never mind its destructive potential, increasing harm to all involved and further putting lives and livelihoods at risk.  We need to think calmly and work to build communities that are resilient to change.  You can’t fight the ocean, but you can learn how to fish.
Timon .:.
Canary Islands President Victor Torres demands “shared solidarity” from Europe
The Regional President called for “shared Solidarity” from the rest of Spain’s autonomous communities, and delivered the same message on Friday to the European Committee of the Regions’ Committee on Citizenship, Governance and Institutional and Foreign Affairs (Civex) in a meeting to address the impact of migration and the need to improve the support from European institutions for local and regional authorities.
President Torres, speaking by videoconference, valued the recent advances to unblock reform of the European Pact for Migration and Asylum and presented to the meeting the current migratory situation in the Canary Islands, a territory at the southern border of the EU, located less than 100 kilometres from the neighbouring African continent and “which has become the tragic protagonist of the Atlantic migration route, one of the most dangerous in the world.” The president put unaccompanied migrant minors at the very centre of immigration management. He explained, according to a statement, that the regional government has protected and cared for more than 2,400 unaccompanied minors in this situation, which has led to 50 centres being mobilised, until this year, costing the islands more than €70 million of their own resources.

There will be many right now who will firmly agree that simply waiting for other regions of Spain, or EU member states, to voluntarily share the burden of migrant arrivals is not a strategy for success.  It hasn’t worked up until now, and so will require a more structured policy to ensure that peripheral regions like ours do not continue to be left to handle migrant arrivals on our own.  Solidarity is all very well, but it means nothing unless it is supported with help doing the heavy lifting.

Final thoughts…
Getting angry (or upset) is not going to solve the coming food crisis. However you feel about it, there is going to be a huge surge of people trying to save themselves and their families from starvation, water poverty, and conflict, unless proactive steps are taken right now, and delivered at scale.
Call it what you like, but there are those with very little to lose in risking everything for a better life, and there are those who just don’t know how privileged they are.  


In all likelihood, unlike survival and self preservation, kindness is not going to be top of the agenda for most people, but make no mistake, kindness is exactly what we are all most going to need, so we better start practicing.
We all need to reset our worldview, and learn how to deal with a global situation that is far beyond our control, or anyone else’s for that matter, and could get far worse before it gets any better at all.

Timon .:.
Editor, The Canary News


Judge insists on removal of 150 minors from Tamanaco apartments in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria

A judge has denied any further continuation to migrant minors being allowed to be temporarily accommodated in the Tamanaco Apartment Complex in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaira ordering the removal of migrant minors within the next few days and weeks. The Las Palmas de Gran Canaria court of contention number 2 has reportedly rejected an attempt to suspend the timely eviction of the unaccompanied migrant minors who have been accommodated at the Tamanaco tourist apartment complex in recent months. The magistrate Mr. Ángel Teba García rejected a precautionary measure filed by the SAMU Foundation, the NGO tasked with caring for the children housed there, which opposed a resolution from the Mogán Town Council to evict when the contract was finished. On that basis, the court agreed to lift a suspension order, decreed back on April 15, and ordered the continuation with exiting the contract in a timely manner.

The SAMU Foundation filed a contentious-administrative appeal against the resolution, 1176/2021, issued by the Mogán town Council, dated March 15, which had requested suspension of the eviction and removal of minors, migrant youths, currently accommodated at the apartments in the tourist resort town of Puerto Rico. The plaintiff indicated in the appeal that “the order being challenged, would mean evicting 150 unaccompanied foreign minors, within fifteen days, who have not yet been taken in by the network of residential resources of the Autonomous Community.”
However, according to the Ministry of Social Rights’ own “Report on the situation of the Tamanaco emergency measures aimed at the residential care of unaccompanied foreign minors“, prepared by the Director General for the Protection of Children and Family, the measures were due to be “concluded by April 31, 2021, or at the latest during the first weeks of May.”

** We are awaiting confirmation of the date from the original measures published in November, which were to be concluded by the end of April. Three separate sources have quoted the date April 31, though the month only has 30 days. We assume it to be a typo in the original report
The order continues stating that “from the moment the landlord initiated legal actions, before the Courts of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, to resolve the lease contract”, which was the legal agreement and basis for the occupation of the property, the foundation and the Ministry of Social Rights were bound to have to contemplate the next move for these children. The court’s conclusion must be, they said, to entirely reject the appeal and support the removal of minors, because “the precautionary measure filed by the SAMU Foundation is therefore inappropriate.”  The court pointed out that they had full knowledge that the contract must be concluded by that date, and also mentioned the incongruousness of the opposing positions of the Regional Executive and the Mogán Council in this conflict.
Procedurally, said the judge, the only position that could be allowed, was to verify “the legality of the procedure and of the Resolution subject to appeal”.
Concluding, the judge said that if it were his understanding “that the controversial Resolution is not in accordance with the law, he had to appeal it as Fundación SAMU has done” and clarified that “the Comunidad Autónoma de Islas Canarias” named as co-defendants, “had perfect knowledge of what was coming and did not appeal against the Resolution of the Mogán Town Council” pointing out that they cannot now do so “surreptitiously.”
The order states that “both the SAMU Foundation and the Executive had to have contemplated the instability for the foster care of migrant minors” in the Tamanaco Apartments.
Speaking of the request for precautionary measures, itself, the judge ordered that “being that the suspension of the administrative Acts was an exceptional measure, the presumption of legality of [those acts] should prevail against the particular interest of the SAMU Foundation.”
In essence the judgement lights a fire under the SAMU Foundation and the Canary Islands Regional Government’s Department of Social Rights, Equality, Diversity and Youth, who are responsible for managing the situation with migrant minors who arrive to the Archipelago. The judgement firmly orders the lifting of the eviction suspension for migrants accommodated in the Tamanaco complex, who are expected to have found an alternative within a matter of days, something that may well prove very difficult indeed.
**this article was edited to correct what appears to be a typo on the original date for the expected end of contract, April 31, a date that does not exist


The Canary News

Policia nacional’s “Operation Arión” broke up a trafficking ring that may have organised transit for thousands of migrants, using false documentation, and with access to thousands of passports

“Operation Arión” was the name given to a coordinated series of raids, as part of a covert operation, across the south of Gran Canaria, and on mainland Spain that has managed to smash an organised criminal gang, suspected of having arranged transport for thousands of incoming migrants from the Canary Islands to the peninsula. More than 300 migrants, who had arrived in the archipelago aboard open boats, known as pateras and cayucos, had their travel arranged from the same travel agency in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria.  Investigators suspect the gang may have profited by more than €500,000, with access to possibly thousands of passports, and having moved many hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants irregularly through Gran Canaria and other islands.

The Policía Nacional‘s General Commissariat for Immigration earlier this month managed to expose and shut down at least three criminal groups, who together coordinated the management of illegal migrants who landed on the Canary Islands in pateras, facilitating travel from there to the Peninsula as well as other countries within the European Union. They supplied documents that either came from third parties or else they falsified paperwork to enable onward transit.
Policía Nacional “Operation Arión” in Arguineguín. Image:- Canariavisen
Working out of an Arguineguín hairdressers, called Barbershop Akram, which was named after the son of the couple who ran it, very near to the port where a large number of the arriving migrants were being brought in to safety, after having been rescued by the Spanish lifeboat service, Salvamento Marítimo, according journalist JM Zuloaga writing in Spanish daily La Razón, on Monday. The venture was allegedly headed by a Moroccan national, who originates from the mountainous Rif region of northern Morocco, identified with the initials TB; and his wife, KB. Their operation was dedicated to more than just cutting hair, or offering shaves, hiding in plain sight they allegedly coordinated a plot which may have sent thousands of people, who arrived on the islands from Morocco and other African countries, on to the Spanish Peninsula.
Those wising to leave the Archipelago, and head to Europe paid €1,500, if they already had a valid passport; and, otherwise, €2,000 for travel and documents to be arranged, by the organised group, who provided passports that had previously been used by other people, according to sources from within the investigation, consulted by La Razón.
The barber’s plot was well coordinated, using “captadores”, (procurers or  “captors”), whose job it was to move through the tourist hotels undetected, where migrants were being temporarily accommodated under the care of NGOs, on the south of Gran Canaria, to offer their services.
Policía Nacional “Operation Arión” in Arguineguín.  Image:- Canariavisen
Once a client had been secured, they were instructed to go to the hairdresser’s shop and deposit money and, if they did not have it immediately available, they were pointed to a specific pay phone booth from which to ask their relatives in Morocco to send funds via wire transfer. Once the fee had been sent they were given a passport to use as a supporting document so that they could receive the amount and pay the gang.
A nearby Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria travel agency arranged the tickets, as part of a “package” which included a false reservation for a hotel in the city to which they were trying to get.
The married couple, the person who controlled the pay phone and the director of the travel agency, are all among those who were arrested in a coordinated series of raids that took place across the south of Gran Canaria and on the mainland.
Policía Nacional “Operation Arión” in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria Image:- Canariavisen
Before taking the arranged flights, or boarding the ship booked for their passage, migrants gathered in the hairdresser’s awaiting a pick up vehicle to take them to the port or airport of departure.
Among the travelling migrants, throughout each trip, was the “pasador“, whose job it was to collect the passports then take a flight back to the Canary Islands so that the documents could be used again.
It was on one of these journeys that Spanish National Police from the Immigration department, managed to detect a group, including the “passer” and six migrants, at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport.
The arrivals were noticed by agents simply for displaying particularly defiant attitudes, enough for them to stand out in the crowd, despite displaying great self-discipline, as if they had received some kind of training. The “passer” tried to hide the passports in a public restroom, but was caught out by surprise, before he could board a return trip to Tenerife.
The people in the hairdresser operation kept records details about a thousand passports and, more importantly, a full registry containing the names of the travellers, as well as the flights for which tickets were purchased for each one. More than 300 tickets had been order through the one travel agency.
The hairdresser allegedly treated the other participants in the plot very well, and paid them generously for the work they did. In the safe, in the shop, in the centre of Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, some €300,000 in cash were found.
4,000 passports and 45 arrests
When some of the migrants started to have difficulties embarking at the ports and airports on Gran Canaria and Tenerife, the plotters began to divert migrants to other islands, where a contingent group would also be sent to wait on standby, to ensure it one group was stopped, another might get through.
All the different operational groups in the network are said to have come from Morocco’s Rif region and, over time, a few broke away from the central organisation to set up their own businesses.
Police specialists involved in “Operation Arión” are now trying to establish the number of people moved through the hairdresser network, with first estimates that they could have had up to 4,000 passports at their disposal.
At least 45 arrests were made as part of an extensive operation in different parts of Spain, with charges ranging from document falsification to crimes against the rights of foreign citizens, 17 of these people having already been jailed awaiting trial. Police estimate that the profits to these organisations could well have been more than half a million euros, and but could be much higher than that.
One of the groups involved, during the latter half of 2020, was found to have arranged transit for more than 300 immigrants via Las Palmas.  The “Operation Arión” investigation was supported by Europol and various units of the Policia Nacional, coordinated by the San Bartolomé de Tirajana Court of Instruction No. 3 on the south of Gran Canaria.


Exclusive: Spanish police raids in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria and Arguineguín, with Europol, result in at least 15 people detained suspected of people trafficking

There were at least 15 people detained in a combined operation between Spanish police and the EU Agency for Law Enforcement on Friday, when agents with balaclavas, bullet-proof vests and automatic weapons were deployed onto the streets of Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria and Arguineguín, in a coordinated series of raids as part of an ongoing investigation into a people trafficking gang, who were working out of several premises in the southern coastal towns, to arrange for irregular migrants and false paperwork to travel to the archipelago, before trying to arrange onward transit to mainland Europe.
Ironically the premises from which the gang operated are in the very same towns that have suffered the largest numbers of migrant arrivals over recent months, and where several street demonstrations called for greater control on irregular migration, a call that was joined by various groups from across the island, and further afield, some of which promoted xenophobia and fear within the population.

Policia Nacional in Puerto Rico de Gran CanariaExclusive Images: Canariavisen

The large deployment carried out by Policia Nacional, in cooperation with Europol, this morning in Mogán, resulted in at least 15 people detained on suspicion of people trafficking offences. related to irregular migrants arriving on the coasts of the Canary Islands Archipelago, in open boats and other vessels. Agents searched two hair salons, a travel agency and some apartments located in Arguineguín, Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, Playa del Cura and in Motor Grande.
Witnesses described seeing “police cars and agents wearing bulletproof vests and carrying a machine gun between the cars” to Norwegian language news portal Canariavisen
The investigation has been open for months, according to sources consulted by Spanish language daily, Canarias7, under the direction of the Immigration and Borders department, with agents having flown in from Madrid and receiving the support of the Maspalomas National Police Station and the main Canary Islands Police Headquarters, who, since this morning, have been deployed along the coast south of Gran Canaria to carry out the co-ordinated warrants for arrests and searches.
Investigators had allegedly identified phone booths and various other businesses, located inside the Shopping Center [sic] Puerto Rico, in Mogán, including travel agencies and various other points across the south of the island, including private apartments in Playa del Cura and Motor Grande, that acted as links in a seemingly sophisticated organisation that sought to coordinate between people who wanted to travel to the Canary Islands or the Peninsula, and those who control the routes, on what is known to be one of the most dangerous migratory routes in Europe, and possible the world.

The Spanish National Police confirmed to local journalists that information around the investigation remains under a summary judicial order for strict secrecy “because the operation is [still] being prosecuted.”

Investigators are looking into a hairdresser’s, located on Calle Alcalde Paco González, in the sleepy fishing-cum-tourist town of Arguineguín, and another located inside the Puerto Rico Shopping Centre, where they have also searched a travel agency, as well as in various tourist apartments a little further along the coast, in Playa del Cura, and in the unassuming little urban community behind Puerto Rico, Motor Grande, say sources close to the investigation.
At least 15 people have been detained for, allegedly, facilitating the irregular transport of migrants to the Archipelago using open boats, pateras and cayucos, and for falsifying documents. A sudden increase in arrivals over the last two years has generated hundreds of deaths in the attempt to complete this dangerous Atlantic ocean journey, using routes that begin from various points along the West African coast, headed towards the Canary Islands.  More than 600 individuals are known to have perished in the last year alone, however humanitarian agencies think that number could be more than 1,800 souls lost.
The operation generated a frenzy among residents in both tourist areas, who at first were surprised at the presence of such a large number of National Police, in what would usually be a Guardia Civil controlled area, and by the amount of time they spent in both establishments.


Fourteen men arrested by National Police including the skippers of seven boats that recently arrived on the coasts of Gran Canaria and Lanzarote

Spanish National Police have arrested a total of fourteen men on Gran Canaria and Lanzarote as alleged perpetrators of crimes connected to illegal immigration, three of them were charged also for belonging to a criminal organisation and another four for reckless homicide.


All of them were identified by migrants as the people who supplied and navigated the boats, which recently arrived on the coasts of Arguineguín, in Mogán (Gran Canaria), Órzola and Arrecife (Lanzarote). A total of 249 people travelled there in these boats, 55 of whom were minors, without any type of security measures, life jackets, food or drink. Four of the migrants died during the journey and one more after having been admitted to a hospital in Gran Canaria due to the terrible conditions on the trip.
The vessels arrived between December 27, 2020 and March 25, 2021 to the coasts of Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.

Spanish National Police have arrested a total of fourteen men on Gran Canaria and Lanzarote as alleged perpetrators of crimes connected to illegal immigration, three of them were charged also for belonging to a criminal organisation and another four for reckless homicide.
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Posted by TheCanary.TV on Thursday, April 1, 2021

Six days at sea and five dead migrants
A total of 249 people travelled on these vessels, of which 55 were minors, and who sailed for days in boats whose safety and security measures were insufficient to make this journey. In addition, throughout the journey the migrants lacked sufficient food and water, so many were forced to drink sea water, leading to a worsening of their condition.
Specifically, one of the open boats carrying 52 migrants spent six days at sea until being rescued by Salvamento Marítimo (Marine Rescue) more than 130 nautical miles south of the island of Gran Canaria. Those on board declared that they had run out of water on the third day of the crossing, so they began to drink sea water. Four migrants died during the journey and one more in the hospital, due to the terrible conditions on the trip.
After being treated by members of the Red Cross, some of them were admitted to hospitals on Gran Canaria due to their compromised state of health.
Fourteen detainees
The National Police began an investigation that identified fourteen of the members on these vessels as the people responsible for their handling and navigation. The police investigation culminated in the arrest of all of them, accused as perpetrators of illegal immigration crimes, three of them also for belonging to a criminal organisation, and another four for reckless homicide.
The police efforts also made it possible to verify that two of the bosses arrested in Arrecife, a 53 year old and a 55 year old both of Moroccan nationality, have numerous prior police records.
Once the corresponding police reports were issued, all the detainees were placed at the disposal of the competent Judicial Authorities, who ordered eight of them into prison, while another six were awaiting judicial disposition.


The Canary News

Migratory flows headed for the Canary Islands continue to worry the Regional Government who fear “a constant humanitarian crisis”

Migratory flows, headed for the Canary Islands, continue to worry the Canary Islands Government, in particular the increases in two vulnerable groups: minors, whether accompanied or not, and women, particularly pregnant women. In fact, data from the last two weeks reinforce this upward trend with 75 [supposed] minors (pending medical confirmation) and 94 women having arrived on the islands in recent days and weeks. The changing profile of migrant arrivals, with respect to the 2006 crisis, a record year in which nearly 32,000 individuals arrived on Canary Islands shores, UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) attributes to several factors, including the intensification of conflicts in various countries of origin and the effects of the global pandemic, among other causal influences.

“The Canary Islands cannot live in a constant crisis”, declared Canary Islands Minister for Social Rights, Noemí Santana, yesterday at a press conference following a meeting of the Canarian Immigration Forum , where social agents and host NGOs, involved in the reception and care of migrant arrivals, shared information and perspectives with the general director for Inclusion, Maite Pacheco, the Spanish President of the Commission for Civil Liberties of the European Parliament (LIBE), Juan Fernando López Aguilar, and the UNHCR’s international spokesperson, Sophie Muller, among others. The results from that meeting were translated into an update of the Canary Island Immigration Plan and a declaration which they intend to submit to the Canary Islands Governing Council for their adoption and transfer to other institutions. The intention now is to make the archipelago a benchmark in migration management, not only responding to the current situation, but also generating resources for the future. According to Santana, Canarian society will be directly involved – through NGOs, trade unions, employers and third sector agents – and both the central Executive, in Madrid, and the European Union will be asked to be jointly responsible for management of the phenomenon.
Likewise, the Canary Islands have pointed out the need for a law that requires a “responsible” distribution of unaccompanied migrant minors among all the autonomous communities, with the aim that the burden of guardianship does not fall solely on recipient territories. “The Canary Islands are willing to assume their share but we cannot leave the problem in the hands of the will of autonomous communities, we must legislate”. At the moment, agreements have been reached to transfer 200 minors to different regions of the Spanish mainland, that is to say less than 10% of those currently hosted here on the islands, but only 32 minors have so far been transferred: 10 to Castilla y León, 14 to Extramdura and 8 to Navarra.

“The Canary Islands cannot live a constant humanitarian crisis, we must act”NAOMI SANTANA

“Dignified care for migrants involves working together, we cannot do it alone,” said the Minister. “Given the complex migratory reality, specific and credible funds are required.” Santana pointed out the work the Canary Islands Regional Government has already been doing, to care for minors, with the opening of 29 emergency centres to accommodate the growing number that has now reached nearly 2,700 being sheltered. Following the previous crisis, the number of places available had been reduced, to just 600, and many centres were dismantled “as if the Canary Islands had changed their geographical location.”
Controversially, three of the new temporary centres were located in empty hotels, on the south of Gran Canaria, due to the total lack of alternative spaces, and only possible due to the total collapse of tourist arrivals because of covid restrictions on travel. One of these has already been closed and the other two are expected to close in the coming months, ahead of any attempts to restart tourism.

Editor’s Comment:
Several residents, as many as 50, in the usually popular tourist resort town of Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, living in tiny apartments originally constructed as short-stay tourism complexes, and subsequently sold to, primarily foreign, residential buyers, have complained for weeks about migrants having been temporarily accommodated in, otherwise out-of-use, 2-star and 3-star hotels.
Though almost all adult migrants have now been transferred to Foreigner Internment Camps, the issue of protecting under-eighteen-year-olds has been more complex to resolve. Few people are more upset, or vocal, than the unfortunate residents living near to hastily organised emergency accommodations set up to house unaccompanied minors, which they say are plainly not fit for purpose.  Much of their upset follows at least three very noisy incidents, caused by frustrated youths cooped up in apartments and, in at least two particular situations where adult migrants, pretending to be under 18, have instigated serious disturbances, including violence, that required police intervention in full protective riot gear.  Arrests were made and the perpetrators jailed.
Many that have spoken to The Canary News feel abandoned in a situation outside of their control, with little communication, or understanding, between the authorities and local residents, who claim their previously dead-quiet hillside streets, overlooking the town, have, in the last two months, turned into daily gathering points for large numbers of disaffected and otherwise unoccupied migrant youths, under the guardianship of NGOs specialising in child protection and youth social services on behalf of the regional government.
The Full Editor’s Comments are available to Supporters of GranCanaria.NEWS
With regards to the presence of minors, in adult detention centres and vice versa, Noemí Santana indicated that an attempt is being made to respond with improvements to the initial filiation of immigrants upon arrival at the coasts, through the presence of social entities specialised in dealing with minors at the port, since the Government depends on the results of bone tests to confirm whether an individual is a minor and to carry out their functions as legally responsible guardians for those under the age of 18.
The forum also drew urgent attention to the need to act in the face of “not less than a thousand migrant deaths” at sea over the last year, primarily on the Ruta Canaria, according to UNHCR estimates, a number they consider “minimal” due to the lack of data. Additionally, participants explored the possibility of adapting available resources or opening centres segregated by gender, to prevent women from having to stay in the same centres as men, where there are currently just a small number of places reserved for them, and thus to be able to improve attention offered to them as a vulnerable group.

Today we send a very clear message: the Canary Islands cannot live in a permanent humanitarian crisis.
Today we have reconvened the Canarian Immigration Forum, for the second time, and with the presence of all the relevant institutions and the third sector.
— Noemí Santana Perera (@noepmp) March 29, 2021

Today we send a very clear message: the Canary Islands cannot live in a permanent humanitarian crisis.Today we have reconvened the Canarian Immigration Forum, for the second time, and with the presence of all the institutions and the third sector.

36 [assumed] minorsYoung migrants that have reached the Canary Islands in the last week, following the predicted increase in boats arriving, to which are added another 39 the previous week. A trend that no longer only encompasses unaccompanied minors, but now also those who embark with family members.
200 placesThis is the current expected number of minors who will be transferred to other regional communities in Spain, although at the moment only Castilla y León (10), Extremadura (14) and Navarra (8) have actually transported young people from the islands to be cared for elsewhere.
69 womenThis is how many were travelling in the boats that have arrived to the Canary Islands over the last seven days, two of them died when a boat overturned on Friday,  and at least two are pregnant. This is 43 more than the previous week, bringing the total to 94 in just 15 days, and they already represent 12% of the migrants who arrived this year.
29 emergency centresThe Canary Islands Government has opened temporary reception facilities to welcome the growing number of arriving minors, now under guardianship, a figure that has already reached around 2,700 in care. During the biggest migrant wave, back in 2006 known as the Crisis of the Cayucos, the Canary Islands barely had 600 places in operation, and even with other communities sharing the burden, the capacity on the islands is wholly insufficient.
600 people deadThese were the confirmed deaths counted on the Canary Route in 2020, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), although UNHCR state that figure to be more than a thousand, at a minimum estimate, with many more thought to have perished without anyone knowing, due to the lack of data around those who embark on this perilous journey.
Here is a recent report from the IOM:


The Canary News

Maritime Rescue operations have increased this week, with all indicators pointing to greater numbers attempting the crossing by boat in 2021

As the springtime arrives and the weather becomes less hostile, so The Canary Islands, and the 100km+ stretch of ocean separating us from the African coast, are likely once again to become the focus of Maritime Rescue operations in an increasing trend toward irregular migration that is good for no-one, not The Canary Islands, not the currently absent tourists, not the residents, not the governments, not the police, not the EU, and least of all, the migrants themselves.  After last year’s huge increase in patera arrivals many had hoped we had already lived through the worst of a situation about which we were being forewarned as early as summer 2019.

Search and Rescue flight path on Wednesday
All the current indicators, however, point to a further increase in migrant arrivals this year, and even after Spain’s and Europe’s failure to properly prepare, and their subsequently inadequate response in 2020, many fear the worst is still yet to come.  Gran Canaria’s Sasemar 103 Maritime Rescue (Salvamento Maritimo) aircraft have once more located boats adrift this week, the latest carrying about 40 people on board who were about 81.5 nautical miles (149 kilometres) southwest of Maspalomas (Gran Canaria). It follows the rescues of nearly 100 others, including women and children, in the preceding days, many of whom were in need of critical medical attention.
Salvamar de Salvamento Marítimo
Once found, the maritime rescue sent their Guardamar Concepción Arenal vessel to the area where the boat was located – a journey of about three hours to reach the exact point -, which also meant alerting a passing ship, which was in the area, the ‘Alicia’, to request they approach the migrant boat to help keep track of its movement and the people onboard. The prevailing currents in the area travel away from The Canary Islands, had they not been spotted they almost certainly would have perished in the open ocean as many do, without a trace, and without anyone ever knowing what has happened.
The maritime rescue Sasemar 103 has continued to search the stretch of water between Africa and the Canary Islands, Europes most dangerous migratory route, in the hope of locating any more boats that may be adrift, as this one was found only after several warnings about various vessels that have left the coast of Africa in recent days, although currently maritime rescuers do not know how many might still be found. Another one was rescued on Tuesday night not far from Gran Canaria.

Editor’s Thoughts:
While many oppose migration in open boats to The Canary Islands (practically no-one supports it) particularly following a 750% increase in arrivals during 2020, simply put, it is a fact that we are having to deal with.  There is literally no way to stop people risking their lives unless we invest longterm in improving their situations in their countries of origin.  Failure to do so is to simply accept that people in poverty will always try to find ways out of poverty.  We need to help them do that, or they will try to find any way they can with or without us, and that means more arrivals without any control.
Indeed there are those who oppose any type of maritime rescue efforts to prevent loss of life, but really, is there anything anyone can do in the short to medium term to stop would-be migrants from getting into rickety boats, often overloaded and not fit for purpose, in their attempts to escape the effects of climate change, poverty, hardship, oppression and conflict in Africa?  Those adrift that we don’t rescue are simply never heard from again.  Their failure is simply no deterrent, just letting people die does not stop others from trying, as the information is never heard by others who, rightly or wrongly, think the potential improvement to their lives worth more than wasting away in the place they were born.
All indicators so far this year point to an even greater increase in maritime migration in 2021, with more than double last year’s  numbers, the second highest number of arrivals in history, already having been registered during the first two and a half months of this year compared to the same period last year.
Anti-immigration protesters have focused on the temporary use of empty tourist hotels, as accommodation, in recent months, while internment camps were being constructed to try to deal with the large numbers who had already arrived. Almost all migrants that were briefly accommodated in otherwise empty hotels on the south of Gran Canaria have now been moved into camps to await deportation, or those with asylum claims (less than 10%) transferred to the mainland.  A further protest against migrant arrivals has been organised for Saturday the 20th March, where organisers will attempt to create a “human chain”, asking participants to all dress in white, in order to try to send some sort of public message about their dissatisfaction concerning people trying to come here in the first place.  The actual message behind the demonstration is not really very clear yet, though the event will apparently be filmed from a helicopter and so we are expecting a video production to subsequently make clear the organisers intentions.
While 23,023 individuals were recorded arriving by boat last year, all mostly stuck on the islands due to COVID restrictions closing down international travel, stopping repatriation or deportations, more than 17,000 of those arrived in the last four months of the year.  There were many who feared that large numbers of people unable to continue on their journeys towards mainland Europe would result in mass criminality, however crime actually went down last year, with a total of just 122 crimes involving migrants having been recorded in the 80 days prior to January 20th, 65 of those being falsified documents, and another 45 of those related to “security” issues having resulted from altercations among the migrants themselves.  While there have been some isolated cases of young migrants allegedly stealing booze from local businesses, and at least one accusation of serious sexual assault, all of which have resulted in immediate arrests and investigations, in general there has been little by way of trouble, with the exception of an occasional social media hoax, several false reports and a few would-be vigilantes with knives trying to present an atmosphere of mayhem, where there is none.
Irregular migrants, with nothing to do, and not allowed to leave the islands, have certainly been more visible, in the absence of any tourists for the last year.  While many have few if any resources, there are those of them who have enough support to survive a few months.  They receive no financial aid, and so quickly become dependent on the reception network, where they wait in hope, slowly realising that 90% or more of them will be told to return to their points of origin without ever getting to mainland Europe.
Small numbers of residents in the south have certainly felt less secure, many women report feeling intimidated by groups of young men hanging around the streets.  However there have been very few actual incidents. To try to allay public fears, about 40 extra Policia Nacional were drafted in to police the situation more visibly, and 20 or so of our specialist Guardia Civil tactical response unit, GRS8 based on Tenerife, were posted twice to the south of the Gran Canaria to ensure a very visible presence on the streets, however they have primarily been relegated to traffic controls and stop and search duties. One GRS8 officer consulted (not an official spokesperson) directly told The Canary News “Right now we are mainly here to help Canarian citizens and foreign residents to feel safer. Though we have been called to isolated incidents, our skill sets have not been required, so we observe and make sure that we are visible to the population, carrying out patrols and traffic stops.  There is not a serious security issue right now on Gran Canaria, it is more public relations to keep everyone calm.”
By far the biggest concern so far has been the handling of unaccompanied minors, more than 2,600 of whom are currently under the care of the regional government’s child protection services, with very little support having yet materialised from mainland Spain, with the exception of some extra finances, and wholly inadequate facilities being used to accommodate the youths among residents living in empty tourist resort towns.
Like it or lump it, we face an even larger influx of migrant arrivals this year, and therefore maritime rescue operations. Everyone, including Spain’s own recent Ombudsman’s report, agrees that the response has been wholly inadequate, and we as a society need to improve how we deal with the reality of something that cannot be easily stopped in the short term.  We face the potential of a quickly growing crisis, primarily humanitarian, here on Europe’s southernmost maritime border, if Spain’s central government and the EU do not act quickly to ensure that this archipelago does not become a prison, for both irregular migrants,  and residents alike over the coming months.  
With growing unemployment and an economy in free fall we can expect more tension from the resident population who see increasing migration as an existential threat on top of so many other calamities over which they have little or no control.  This will take a lot of energy and many years to effectively overcome, but right now we need to calmly deal with the realities of the situation.  We either work together to get through it, or more angry voices, offering no real solutions, continue to polarise our communities.
Edward Timon.:. Editor


The Canary News

Deportation flight to Senegal from Canary Islands cancelled for the second time

The Spanish Ministry of the Interior has for the second time canceled a deportation flight to Senegal, meant to return migrants who arrived by boat to the Canary Islands over recent months. The flight was due to be on Wednesday night, the first such flight since 2018,  confirm sources involved in their supervision.

The flight, which originated in Madrid, was scheduled to arrive at Tenerife North at 8:35 p.m., to embark a group of Senegalese citizens, who are currently being held at the Hoya Fría CIE (Foreigners Interment Centre), and continue the journey with them to Dakar.
Initially, this particular group of people were to be returned on February 24, but the centre where they are being held suffered an outbreak of COVID-19, with the last case confirmed just one week before the departure of the deportation flight to Senegal. However, sources have not specified the reasons why, once again, this deportation flight has been cancelled.
Spain has not returned migrants who arrived in the Canary Islands by boat to Senegal since 2018, when at least 150 citizens of that country were transferred to Dakar in four planes that departed from Gran Canaria (one, carrying 40 people) and Tenerife (three, with a total of 110), according to the Ombudsman’s report that year.
Last year the Canary Islands received 23,023 migrants in open boats, of which more than 11,998 were Moroccans and 4,539 Senegalese, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior cited by the latest Ombudsman in the report a week ago on the situation on the islands.

Senegal, the westernmost country in Africa, has a population of about 15.4 million people. between a third and half the Senegalese population are living below the poverty line, on less than $2 a day. 75 percent of families suffer from chronic poverty. In rural areas, 66 percent of residents are considered poor, compared to 25 percent of residents in Dakar. 60% of the population are under 25. A large majority are engaged in subsistence farming with 70% of crops being rain fed, meaning that even slight droughts can have extraordinarily negative effects.

The lack of employment and business opportunities in agriculture is a driver of migration, which leads to urbanization and emigration. Those left behind, especially women, children and the elderly, are particularly exposed to food insecurity and other risks.
Gender disparities remain widespread in the country, especially in rural areas where traditional and religious practices like early and forced marriage cause girls to drop out of school, reduce their productivity and perpetuate the cycle of inequality.— World Food Programme

Demonstrations, riots, police brutality and political insecurity have increased in recent weeks, with several protesters having been shot by security forces in the last week alone.
If you would like to know more about what is driving recent senegalese migration, try taking a look at this article from Ricci Shryock over at The New Humanitarian



The Canary Guide

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