The Canarian migratory route is reactivated in the middle of winter | Spain

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53 sub-Saharan immigrants, including several women, who were rescued in waters near Lanzarote on January 23.
53 sub-Saharan immigrants, including several women, who were rescued in waters near Lanzarote on January 23.Javier Fuentes (EFE)

It is noon outside the migrant camp that the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration has in the neighborhood of La Isleta, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. A group of people leans against a wall in front of the door, looking lost. They barely talk to each other. They prefer not to reveal their names when asked, but explain that they have arrived in different boats throughout December and January, from Dajla (former Villa Cisneros, in Western Sahara). “The trip was smooth, we arrived without problems,” they say in difficult French. “And there, many wait to leave,” they add.

This group of migrants awaiting their fate in the Canarian capital arrived in one of the 59 small boats that have arrived on the islands in an unusually active January. During 2021, the arrival of migrants to the Canary Islands by sea was reduced by 4.1%, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, to a total of 22,316 people. In the last two months of last year, however, the security forces already noted an acceleration in arrivals: 3,039 in November and 2,451 in December. In January, the rate of arrivals continues to be similar: 2,674 arrivals until the 28th, according to data provided by the Government Delegation in the Canary Islands. During the entire month of January 2020, the entry of 2,077 people was registered. “We are in intense traffic, almost at the rate of autumn. It is high even for these months ”, maintain sources close to the Government of the Canary Islands.

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This greater activity, favored by the good weather that has prevailed for much of the month, also presents unprecedented characteristics until now. Above all, with regard to the point of origin of the boats. Until recently, the hot spot was concentrated in the Dakhla area. This circumstance made Gran Canaria the island that brought together the majority of arrivals. But so far this year the focus has shifted to the north, within Moroccan territory, and departures have been detected even from Safi, less than 200 kilometers from important population centers such as Casablanca (2.9 million inhabitants). . Consequently, now Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are the islands on which the migratory pressure has turned.

At the beginning of 2021, the Red Cross informed the Senate that during all of 2020 it had cared for 23,322 people on the islands, 70% of them in Gran Canaria. Currently, the organization already serves more migrants in the two easternmost islands than in Gran Canaria. In Lanzarote, the increased pressure has even caused tensions between the Ministry of the Interior and the Arrecife City Council.

The rescue teams have had to face new situations. On January 18, the ship Seakeeper Calliope he had to help a small boat that had been lost on the high seas more than 200 kilometers north of Lanzarote. This was the northernmost rescue within the Canarian route that Salvamento Marítimo has faced to date.

Sources from the Ministry of the Interior refused this Friday to give an explanation for this displacement towards the north of Morocco of the exits. The Government delegate in the Canary Islands, Anselmo Pestana, admitted last Tuesday to Cadena SER that the departures, increasingly, are taking place from the “Saharan and Moroccan coast”. That day, the Palmero politician slipped that Morocco’s collaboration model in the Mediterranean “should be reflected on the Atlantic coast.” In his opinion, the increases in control at source should “improve a lot”.

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The change of location of the exits is not the only novelty on the Canarian route in recent months, according to sources close to the Government of the Canary Islands. In the first place, an increase of around 10% is being observed in the number of women arriving in small boats. This phenomenon also occurred at the beginning of last year, although it faded as the months went by. In all of 2020, women made up 5.2% of total arrivals.

Other provenances

These same sources confirm a certain internationalization of the migratory phenomenon in the Canary Islands, with more and more frequent arrivals of citizens from Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, or from other Africans such as Cameroon, whose displaced persons used to opt for the Mediterranean route, which in the is currently closed.

Maritime Rescue, in addition, has perceived an increase in the use of inflatable boats, as confirmed by sources from the agency. These boats may be appropriate for good weather situations, but “now they are also being used in bad weather, and that is causing more shipwrecks,” they explain. Last Tuesday, 18 people who made the crossing in a pneumatic boat disappeared at sea, according to the NGO Walking Borders. When the rescue teams found the nine survivors, they were clinging to the half-sunken boat.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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