The Spanish Ministry of Migration has officially declared a state of emergency in the Canary Islands due to an unprecedented influx of migrants, with over 23,000 individuals having arrived on the islands so far this year.
The decision comes as the Canary Islands face an extraordinary surge in migrant arrivals, making it the deadliest route in the world.
According to the Ministry, this emergency measure is in line with the Public Sector Contracts Law, allowing immediate action in response to “supervening events”.
Similar mechanisms were employed during the 2020 migration crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as during the arrival of displaced Ukrainians in Spain.
The Canary Islands currently host eight large reception centres, three in Tenerife, three in Gran Canaria, one in Fuerteventura, and one in Lanzarote, along with around 30 other centres scattered across the archipelago.
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To meet the escalating needs, the Ministry plans to invest more than €100million to reinforce reception capacity on the islands.
In addition to enhancing reception facilities, the Ministry of the Interior has implemented stringent measures to address the rising number of arrivals via small boats. The Ministry, under Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has opted for intensified surveillance and border control efforts.
During a recent visit to the Canary Islands, the acting Interior Minister announced the deployment of Guardia Civil aircraft to the archipelago and the coast of Senegal to prevent migrant boats from departing. Senegal presently serves as a key departure point for boats destined for Spain.
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While the current situation mirrors the 2020 crisis, notable differences exist. Unlike in 2020 when border closures resulted in overcrowded conditions and dire circumstances for migrants, this year, swift referrals to mainland Spain have occurred, along with the rapid distribution of survivors to different islands.
Nevertheless, the saturation of police resources has led to challenges, reminiscent of the scenes witnessed during the 2020 crisis.
Over the weekend, the Centre for the Temporary Attention of Foreigners (CATE) in Arrecife experienced overwhelming numbers, necessitating the National Police to accommodate new arrivals in the garage of the police station.
During these developments, the Spanish Network of Immigration and Refugee Aid has “urgently” called upon the Ombudsman to intervene, citing the ongoing “chaos in the Canary Islands”. Their letter highlights the lack of qualified personnel to adequately address the needs of potential asylum seekers and raises concerns about the failure in age screening processes for possible minors.
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