Migrants arriving in Spain’s Canary Islands are at their highest level in over a decade. On Gran Canaria, reception centers are full and over 200 people have been forced to camp on the dockside.
A boat carrying 32 people arrived at dawn on Thursday at the port of Orzola in the north of the island of Lanzarote. Local news reports said there were 17 men, 12 children and three women on board.
The Canary Island Emergency Service (SUC) and the Red Cross provided assistance to the migrants, all of whom were reportedly in good health.It was the second boat to arrive on the island within 24 hours after a boat landed at the Castillo de San Gabriel de Arrecife on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile a third boat arrived near San Bartolome de Tirajana on the island of Gran Canaria on Thursday, according to the news website El diario.
Wednesday also saw 58 men rescued from three small boats drifting in waters south of Gran Canaria. The men were brought ashore by health officials in white overalls, goggles and respirators, to join another 150 people currently camped on the dockside, Reuters reports.Makeshift camp
More than 200 people who have arrived on boats from the West African coast are now in the makeshift camp in Gran Canaria's Arguineguin port.
Some of the migrants queued up to receive drinks, snacks and hand sanitizer
from volunteers, while others sprawled out on blankets on the concrete floor,
according to Reuters.
When asked what the plan for the migrants was, a government spokesperson told the news agency “We’re working on it.” She did not go into any more detail.
Migrants who arrive in the Canary Islands are not allowed to travel to mainland Spain. The policy has been criticized by migrant rights organizations. “Blocking people from leaving the Canaries has turned the islands into an open-air prison,” Txema Santana from the NGO Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance (CEAR) told AP.
Overall the number of migrants arriving in Spain by sea this year is down by 22% on 2019, the latest UN figures show. But arrivals to the Canaries have surged to over 4,000.
“Right now we have over 4,000 people arriving in the Canary Islands so far this year, the vast majority to the island of Gran Canaria, which is seeing the most migratory pressure,” CEAR tweeted.
CEAR also called for urgent action to help those sleeping on the asphalt of the Arguineguin dock, which it described as a warehouse with no shower or adequate sanitary conditions.
In 2019, Morocco received funding from the European Union to stop migrants from reaching southern Spain via the Mediterranean Sea. So far this year, arrivals to mainland Spain have decreased by 50% compared to the same period last year, while the number arriving in the Canary Islands has increased by nearly 580%. According to AP, there were more than 850 arrivals by sea to the Canaries in the month of August.Deadly route
The journey to the Canary Islands is highly dangerous. For every 16 people who make it, one person dies, according to the International Organization for Migration. This year more than 250 people have died or gone missing on the route.
On August 19, the bodies of 15 Malians who had died in their boat were spotted by a Spanish plane about 150 kilometers off Gran Canaria. The following day another migrant boat was rescued and brought to the island with 16 people, four of whom were dead.
The survivors had witnessed the four passengers die along the way, AP reported. “They almost didn't speak,” said Jose Antonio Rodriguez, from the regional Red Cross immediate response team. “They were in a state of shock.”With AP, Reuters