“We are fed up with the lie, that there is still no care protocols,” exclaims Ricardo Ortega, senior patron of the Arguineguín Fishermen’s Association. “And warning: many more will arrive because the sea is this good …”. His cousin Manuel Santana, vice patron and manager of the Fishermen’s Guild Restaurant, in this coastal town in the south-east of Gran Canaria, warns: “The town is about to make a tunte”, He assures in relation to the altercations that took place in the Gran Canaria town of De Tunte, in San Bartolomé de Tirajana, in July. Then, its inhabitants confronted the state security forces before the eviction of a group of immigrants and the subsequent arrival of another group.
The mayor of Mogán, Onalia Bueno, agrees with her neighbors. “We are all outraged by the inaction of the Government of Spain,” he says. “We understand that the Government Delegation is overwhelmed, but here there is no decent place for them. Europe cannot consent to this type of policy ”.
Arguineguín this week has been the latest example of the growing migratory tension in the islands. Its dock has been hosting people fleeing their countries of origin by boat for months. Since Friday, August 28, up to 252 Algerians and Sub-Saharan Africans have stayed on the ground and under tents, arriving throughout the days in more than twenty boats. Between last Thursday and Friday, the Government Delegation has proceeded to transfer 160 of these people to a complex of bungalows in Maspalomas provided by local businessmen. This is not the only hot spot on the island: in the town of Arinaga, (municipality of Agüimes, in the southeast), another 135 immigrants had been spending the night in a field. They too have been rehoused at the end of this week.
The figures are accumulating: the Canary Islands have received 3,933 immigrants arrived on their shores or rescued in nearby waters in the first eight months of the year. They arrived in 136 boats or cayucos. The number of people seeking shelter on the Canary Islands’ coasts has multiplied almost seven times compared to 2019 (3,349 more, an increase of 573.5%), according to data from the Ministry of the Interior as of August 31.
The question is not only that the call has been reactivated canarian route (one of the most dangerous, by the way), but, in addition, transfers to the peninsula have been almost completely paralyzed, thus depleting the resources that are improvised and that, to a large extent, come from the Canary Islands administrations (or the generosity of associations or businessmen). In the archipelago, despite the call crisis of the cayucos in 2006, there were still not enough facilities to care for migrants. And many of those that exist are not adequate either and municipalities, priests, volunteers and NGOs improvise at each peak of arrivals accommodation in sports halls, school residences, youth hostels and even industrial buildings. The Government Delegation has used hotel establishments due to the shortage of locations, something that has angered the mayor of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Conchi Narváez, who believes that it may affect the external image.
Or the same Arguineguín pier this week, as has happened on previous occasions. “We are not racists, but this has to end now, this is too much,” exclaims Ramón Trujillo, leaning against the door of the Centro Sociocultural el Cangrejo, which he chairs.
It’s noon in this town of about 2,500 inhabitants. Trujillo speaks a few meters from Las Marañuelas Beach, in the heart of the city, which today is at a cautious average capacity (and with very few masks) despite being a weekday. From the sand, on the other side of the bay, you can see the tents that the Red Cross has installed. A vision that stirs up the local population. “The fatigue of our people is not that they arrive: before they arrived and were taken away,” says the mayor of Mogán. “The problem”, he says, “is the overcrowding of boats, which cause odor and bad appearance. A month ago we removed 29 with the commitment that there would be a protocol, and now there are another 14 stored ”.
“No municipality wants immigrants in its territory,” say sources from the Government of Spain who prefer not to be cited. And that, despite the fact that what they usually do is only a small part of the arrivals to the Canary coasts. “Since September 15, 2019, we have served 3,790 people in the Canary Islands,” explains José Javier Sánchez Espinosa, deputy director of Social Inclusion at the Red Cross. “In September you had 16 people welcomed on two islands; today there are 1,270 people hosted in 28 devices on all the islands except El Hierro ”. The Government Delegation encourages the population to see the current situation with different eyes. “The Canarian people are supportive and it should not shock us to see migrants welcomed. Because, in addition, they generate economic activity and employment ”.
When an immigrant arrived at the shores of the islands, the Emergency Immediate Response Teams (ERIE) were the first to act, providing them with first care (a hot meal, a drink, clothes or a shower). From there they were referred to a police station, where the identification and review was carried out. Subsequently, they were taken over by the Secretariat of State and Immigration, which, finally, referred them again to the Red Cross (or other NGOs) for reception.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered the procedure. “Once the ERIEs have acted, the migrants remain in place to be identified in situ. In addition, we have to wait for the PCR tests, and depending on the result we have a real bobbin lace before us to be able to locate the refugees, ”explains Sánchez Espinosa.
“The Government of Spain”, say sources from the Government Delegation in the Canary Islands, “has shown a clear willingness to adapt its reception resources to the current migratory flow, and continues working in this line to guarantee decent conditions and deploy the spaces that are necessary, both in the Canary Islands and in the Peninsula ”.
The Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) is somewhat more critical. Its spokesperson in the Canary Islands, Txema Santana, assures that the steps taken by the Government Delegation, such as transferring part of the refugees to transferred hotel establishments, “are an emergency measure”, but that “it cannot be durable and cannot hide mismanagement when creating a decent host network ”, he assures. And, above all, it demands that transfers be made possible again. “It makes the Canary Islands turn into a prison. And we don’t want to be ”.