The migratory crisis in the Canary Islands has become a social and political tinderbox in which various sectors press towards a natural way out: the transfer of part of the migrants to the peninsula. It is the preferred option of the Canarian policy and even of the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations. However, the Government rejects the idea, especially the Interior, because it says it would have a knock-on effect and because Europe would not tolerate it, according to Executive sources. Very discreet and dropper transfers are made: so far this year about 1,800 compared to the 18,000 that have arrived on the islands, according to sources familiar with the operations.
While the transfers to the Barranco Seco area begin to relieve the Arguineguín dock, saturated by the constant arrival of boats, the Government has not quite agreed on the solution to the crisis. The team of the Minister of Inclusion, Migration and Social Security, José Luis Escrivá, has opted to multiply transfers to the Peninsula to alleviate the pressure on the archipelago. But the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, flatly refuses to authorize them in large quotas. The bulk of the ministries with migratory powers support the thesis of the Interior and maintain that facilitating transit to the continent is an incentive that can cause more arrivals.
So far this year, the transfer of only 1,800 migrants to the Peninsula has been authorized, according to sources familiar with these operations. “They are done in a timely manner, prioritizing profiles of international protection and vulnerable groups and always in coordination with the reception system,” state official sources. They are not the only ones who have left the archipelago. In addition to the nearly 200 expulsions that have been carried out so far this year, there is an undetermined number of migrants, especially Moroccans, who have managed to travel to the Peninsula on their own with their passports, but the system continues under maximum pressure .
For Migrations, which receives some 1,200 people in centers and another 5,000 in hotels and apartments emptied by the pandemic because there were no more reception places on the islands, transfers are essential. The host network depends on a rotation of users. In the Peninsula, rotation is possible because migrants arriving by boat do not remain indefinitely in the centers and leave in search of work or regroup with their relatives and acquaintances in Spain and other EU countries as soon as they have the opportunity. On the islands, with the current volume of arrivals and a limited number of departures, the model is unsustainable. In addition to being temporary, the hotel solution is expensive and has generated rejection in a part of the hoteliers and the Canarian population.
Escrivá, according to sources involved in crisis management, wanted to charter a boat to transport 800 people, but Interior refused outright. The only transfers that are being authorized are in groups of 30 or 40 people who travel weekly on boats and planes, according to some of the derived migrants and sources dedicated to caring for newcomers have told EL PAÍS. Tensions with the Grande-Marlaska department over this issue have been dragging on since late last year when arrivals to the archipelago began to emerge. Then, at the head of Migrations was Magdalena Valerio, with Consuelo Rumí in the Secretary of State.
The opacity with which these transfers are managed is almost total. The Red Cross confirmed to EL PAÍS a month ago the referral of some 1,200 people from their centers on the islands to resources in other provinces between September 2019 and October 2020. In those quotas, distributed in several plane and boat trips, there was priority to women and children, but other profiles were also included that in most cases have relatives in different EU countries with whom they intended to meet. A month after the latest figures available, a period in which almost 9,000 more people have disembarked, the spokesmen for the Interior, Migrations and the Government Delegation refuse to update the data.
The question transcends borders. The European Union and partners such as France, which absorbs a significant volume of people who enter Spanish territory irregularly, pressure Spain to stop the transit through the continent of migrants arriving on the islands. The EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johanson, made this very clear during her visit to the islands in the company of Grande-Marlaska on 6 November. “People who do not need international protection, economic immigrants, must be returned to their countries,” the commissioner maintained. The difficulty facing Spain – and all its European partners – is that it is unable to return all the irregular immigrants it receives to their countries. The expulsions, which have just resumed with Mauritania, Morocco and which, foreseeably, will be reactivated with Senegal, represent a limited number of returns.
Complaints from local authorities
Meanwhile, Canarian politics is experiencing the crisis with deep anxiety, and demands solutions from the Government. Escrivá traveled to the Canary Islands this Thursday afternoon to present a new crash plan. The local authorities will demand a more active referral policy to alleviate the “overcrowding” that occurs especially on the island of Gran Canaria. The autonomous community is also dealing with an added issue for which it also demands the solidarity of other territories: the care of 1,900 minors in their own centers and of island councils. “It is absolutely essential that one of the capital and urgent measures is that the people who are in the Canary Islands, in solidarity and taking into account the circumstances of our country, are referred to other communities and, of course, to the EU, which is the one who has He has to define the model he wants for the present and for the future ”, the Canarian president, the socialist Ángel Víctor Torres, assured this Wednesday.
The president of the Gran Canaria Cabildo, Antonio Morales, from Nueva Canarias, assures EL PAÍS he raised the issue of referrals in a meeting with Commissioner Johanson and Minister Grande-Marlaska on his visit on November 6. “I told them clearly that we were not going to accept becoming a prison island,” he says. “I clearly told the police station, but only received evasions. Referrals were a taboo subject at the meeting, because Europe does not want to talk about it ”.
The matter has already become a serious political problem. The Canary Coalition has raised the tone, even Podemos Canarias has called for the resignation of Grande-Marlaska while the socialist Torres calls all the ministers involved – up to five – daily to demand a solution. The great concern is that Vox uses the crisis to grow with a xenophobic speech. Grande-Marlaska travels to Morocco this Friday to speed up returns and improve control of the coasts. More than half of those who have arrived so far this year are Moroccans. But the coronavirus ravages all African countries near the Canary Islands. The pressure grows. And massive transfers to the Peninsula are still not a real option for the Government.