Spain’s Canary Islands are experiencing an “exponential increase” in the arrival of migrants to the islands off Morocco’s Atlantic coast so far this year, with some 2,670 migrants arriving by boat in the first six months of the year. Just 2,698 migrants arrived by boat to the islands during all of 2019.
According to the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR), a non-governmental organization that works to assist and defend the rights of arriving immigrants, the Canaries are reaching saturation point and the Spanish government should re-institute the policy of moving migrants from the islands to the Spanish mainland while their cases are being processed.
Juan Carlos Lozano, delegate for CEAR in the Canary Islands, said that the attention being given to the arriving migrants throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been “very positive” noting that they undergo a PCR test immediately upon their arrival to the islands.
Last Thursday, eleven of 31 migrants rescued at sea by Spain’s Salvamento Maritima coast guard tested positive for coronavirus on being given a PCR test on arrival to the island of Fuerteventura. Three additional migrants who tested positive earlier in the week, bring the number of positive cases among the arrivees to 14 over the past seven days.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Spain’s central government has been reticent to return to the policy of transferring the migrants to the mainland while their requests for asylum or approval to remain in Europe are being processed.
As the numbers of migrants have grown, they have been held at various sites dotted throughout the Canaries. But as an alternative, the Interior Ministry’s office of the Secretary of State for Migration is now looking for centralized facilities to house the migrants and mitigate their dispersion throughout the islands.
CEAR’s Lorenzo says the majority of migrants who arrive in the Canary Islands by boat see the islands as a transit territory, because they have their hopes built around moving elsewhere in Europe where they foresee a better life for themselves.
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