Tag: migrants

Latest Gran Canaria News, Views & Sunshine

The Canary Guide Día de Canarias #WeekendTips 26-28 May 2023

What an interesting last weekend of May ahead. Weather predictions are showing some rain showers are likely across Gran Canaria. This extended #WeekendTips covers up to Tuesday, when all things Canarian are celebrated on the Día de Canarias. There’ll be some gorgeous Patron Saints’ festivities happening in San Fernando de Maspalomas as well as in Valleseco.

Fun Fact:
Valleseco literally means “dry valley” in Spanish, but is actually one of the wettest municipalities Gran Canaria. Nestling between the famous fresh water sources of Firgas & Teror, half way up the island’s mountainous northern slopes, this area is well known for its apple growers, cider and its weekly market

Six weeks since the unexplained disappearance of Anna-Karin on Gran Canaria

The authorities on Gran Canaria have been engaged in a rigorous search for Swedish tourist Anna-Karin Bengtsson, who went missing in the south of Gran Canaria around April 9. Her unexplained disappearance has caused her family much distress, with no clues to her whereabouts having emerged in the six weeks since they first realised her phone was no longer functioning.

The Canary Guide #WeekendTips 19-21 May 2023


An exciting May weekend ahead with abundant events and festivities taking place all around Gran Canaria. There are Patron Saints’ festivities for Motor Grande, in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, and in El Tablero in the municipality of San Bartolomé de Tirajana and up in the mountains of Artenara. There is also a two day lively exhibition event in Meloneras boulevard and the Rally Gran Canaria is held this Friday and Saturday.


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.


Nearly 50 arrests as part of Gran Canaria Policia Nacional investigation against people trafficking to The Canary Islands

The police raids across the South of Gran Canaria, on Friday, as part of a cross border investigation into the illegal organising of irregular migration, in the municipality of Mogán, have resulted in nearly 50 arrests, with a confirmed total of 27 arrested on Gran Canaria, 17 of whom have been directly jailed on charges. Policia Nacional Agents have made between 15 and 20 more arrests in mainland Spain related to these events, investigating alleged crimes including the illegal trafficking of migrants by boats from the west African coasts to the Canary Islands.

A large number of the detainees include Moroccan nationals and natives of that country, naturalised as Spanish, as well as Italians all allegedly working together along with various other groups.  There has not yet been any confirmations regarding other nationalities. The investigation continues to be open, though under a strict secrecy order, and searches continue to be conducted at a score of establishments, including two hairdressers, a travel agency and apartments located in Arguineguín, Puerto Rico, Playa del Cura and Motor Grande.
The investigation, and the corresponding operation against human trafficking, began in the Canary Islands and is under the direction of the General Police Department for Immigration and Borders, with agents from Madrid, supported by their colleagues from the Maspalomas Police Command and the Superior Police Headquarters in The Canary Islands, who on Friday morning deployed along the south coast of Gran Canaria to carry out searches and arrests, following several months of investigation.

Editor’s comment:
With nearly 50 arrests in total already, more than half of them on Gran Canaria, and 17 already jailed on charges, this operation is looking more and more like the result of a massive investigation which is now bringing some real and tangible results. 
Nevertheless numbers, travelling along what is known as The Canary Route, have more than doubled already this year, so it remains to be seen whether the dismantling of this criminal group is likely to have any serious affect on the numbers expected to be arriving this summer.  Lots of work is going on at the points of departure and countries of origin too, to try to stem the flow.  Only time will tell if this changes the situation.  Whichever way you look at it, there are millions of people displaced across the Sahel and troubles on the coasts of Africa as well as in Western Sahara, we must prepare to face the probability that this is just one small drop in a vast, and unforgiving, ocean.


Detained without bail: Three Ukrainian crew members from the hashish smuggling Panamanian-flagged fishing vessel intercepted last weekend

The Central Court of Instruction number 6 has agreed to the three Ukrainian nationals being detained without bail, all crew members from the Panamanian-flagged fishing vessel intercepted last weekend in the Atlantic, more than 300km south of the Canary Islands, which was found to be carrying a total of 18,985 kg of hashish, while they await trial. 

Legal sources have reported that the National Court judge decided to send the three detainees to prison without bail for an alleged crime against public health due to the aggravating factor of this huge amount, the largest such haul by Spanish authorities of notorious importance, after taking their statements by videoconference from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where they have been since the ship was intercepted last Saturday.
Judicial provision for the operation (the warrant) – which usually must be carried out within a maximum of 72 hours – had to be extended until the authorities were able to ensure the rescue of more than 30 people that the Customs Surveillance Agents had found adrift and calling for help, from a dinghy on the open seas, at the very same time that they were heading to proceed to intercept the fishing vessel.
Legal sources point out that Judge Gadea agreed to delay the interrogations of the detainees to “prioritise the lives of these people over the mission they were entrusted with” in order to ensure assistance and rescue for the more than 30 migrants.
Operation Avio began last Friday, March 26, and concluded in the early hours of Saturday morning with the interception of the fishing vessel, named Albatros Guard VSL, when they were about 170 nautical miles southwest of the island of Gran Canaria. The agents seised 18,985 kilos of hashish and 595 bales. The accused will be detained without bail until their trial.


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.
Read More: https://www.facebook.com/TheCanaryNews/posts/4088772881145590
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

50 more feared perished at sea as Maritime Rescue search the ocean in response to warnings and a distress call from a sinking rubber boat

The Salvamento Maritime Rescue search plane that has been tracking the 100km-wide strip of ocean between Fuerteventura and Tarfaya (Morocco) this morning has not yet managed to find any sign of a rubber inflatable boat after the distressed occupants put out a call for help after finding themselves in serious trouble. A another alert has also been received following the departure of a second boat, this time from Dakhla.

Tarfaya is 100km due east of The Canary Islands Image: Google Earth
50 migrants were reportedly aboard the inflatable, including ten women and four minors, who requested help by phone through the Caminando Fronteras human rights collective, who have migrant community outreach programs along several western maritime borders between Africa and Europe, who reported that the occupants were saying that the bottom of their boat was tearing and that they were in danger of sinking.
The Spanish Maritime Rescue received information from the Rabat emergency coordination centre that a Moroccan patrol boat has also joined the search.
Meanwhile, a further departure alert has been received: specifically, a boat that would have left this Monday for the Canary Islands, travelling from Dakhla, in the south of Western Sahara, a 450km distance as the crow flies likely to double when at sea.  With another 48 migrants on board, including 17 women and six minors, this Maritime Rescue search has too become a matter of urgency.
There is currently no news at the moment of their whereabouts.  NGOs this week have warned of the “very worrying trend” toward a higher proportion of migrant women and children attempting the crossing this year, following the death of a young child last week from severe dehydration at sea.
Dakhla is 450km due south of The Canary Islands Image: Google Earth

Editor’s Comment:
Spain’s heroic Maritime Rescue service rightly don’t concern themselves with why people might need help, their only focus is to prevent loss of life. Currently SAR resources are searching for nearly 100 people suspected to be at sea trying to cross. NGO’s have warned of a worrying trend towards an increased proportion of women and children attempting the crossing this year. The Salvamento Maritimo have repeatedly debunked ultra-right claims and suspicions of “mother ships” travelling The Canary Route, with every little boat they are aware of having attempted the journey from various points along the West African coast, travelling between 100km and 1000km or more on journeys that take between 3 and 20 days. Most are not properly prepared with insufficient fuel, food or water. Every indication so far this year points to an increase in numbers attempting the journey over last years record breaking 23,023 who arrived, the second highest number of arrivals since records began. It is thought between 500 and 1000 people lost their lives last year in the attempt, but there is just no way of knowing exactly how many.

#EFEFotos | Salvamento Marítimo ha rescatado este sábado a 52 inmigrantes africanos, todos varones, que se dirigían a #GranCanaria en un cayuco localizado 22 kilómetros al sur de la isla.? EFE/Ángel Medina G. pic.twitter.com/4qACs3gte8
— EFE Canarias (@EFE_Canarias) March 20, 2021


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