After Perilous Atlantic Journey, Migrants Await Their Fate in Canary Island Hotels

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PUERTO RICO, Spain — After braving the Atlantic on a rickety and overcrowded fishing boat for six days, a bunch of younger Senegalese has spent the previous three weeks in a three-star resort within the Canary Islands, overlooking a spectacular seashore lapped by pristine waters.

While relieved to have survived their perilous journey to the Canary Islands, which has change into essentially the most lethal crossing from Africa into Europe for migrants, the six younger males additionally know that their resort keep shouldn’t be a fairy-tale finish to their odyssey.

“After this crazy trip, I am happy to be alive, but I really have no idea how long I can stay here and where I can go next,” mentioned Ousseynou Diop, 19, who boarded the fishing boat within the Senegalese port of Saint-Louis on Nov. 1.

About 20,000 migrants have reached the Canary Islands up to now this yr, regardless of a number of lethal shipwrecks off Senegal and different African nations, in addition to some that occurred simply because the boats had been reaching the shores of the Spanish archipelago. At least 568 folks have died whereas crossing from Africa to the Spanish islands between January and late November, in accordance with the International Organization for Migration.

The sudden inflow of migrants has caught the Spanish authorities flat-footed, despite the fact that rights activists and different consultants had been warning that traffickers had been more likely to divert to the Canary Islands after a rise in patrols nearly shut down many Mediterranean routes into Europe, notably from Libya.

Instead, Spain is now pressuring its companions within the European Union to ascertain a system to distribute migrants equitably throughout member nations, and asking Morocco and different African nations to take again these with out a authorized declare to stay, at a time when journey restrictions associated to the coronavirus have significantly difficult deportations.

“We are the southern border of Europe, not of Spain,” Hana Jalloul, Spain’s migration secretary, mentioned in a video convention name with a bunch of overseas correspondents late final month. Other European nations that obtain fewer migrants “should take into account our situation,” she added.

The regular inflow of migrants is hitting Spain because the coronavirus has stifled its economic system, notably its cornerstone, tourism. Since March, the Canary Islands have solely seen a fraction of the 13 million vacationers who got here final yr for the seashores and the delicate local weather, a lot in demand through the European winter. In October, there have been 88 p.c fewer overseas guests than in the identical month final yr.

Since the summer season, as an emergency answer, the Spanish authorities has moved about 6,000 migrants from tents in Arguineguín, a port on Gran Canaria, one of many most important islands of the archipelago, to 17 accommodations which were shuttered by the pandemic, a number of of them within the seashore city of Puerto Rico.

The transfer was initially welcomed by native hoteliers, who acquired about 45 euros, or $55, a day from the authorities in return for offering meals and lodgings for every migrant, however tensions have constructed up because the stream of arrivals has proven no signal of easing.

Late final month, a whole lot of residents demonstrated to demand the departure of the migrants, saying that their presence might deter European vacationers because the winter season begins.

“We should put them on planes and send them home, because we have people living here who have invested a lot of money to fill this beautiful place with tourists, and certainly not migrants,” mentioned one of many protesters, Teresa García Llarena, a pensioner and former worker of a automobile rental firm.

The island’s most important affiliation of hoteliers didn’t again the protest, however its Dutch president, Tom Smulders, mentioned that “this crisis situation has got as far as it could go” and he urged Spain’s authorities to evacuate all migrants from accommodations by the top of the yr.

The mayor of the municipality that features Puerto Rico, Onalia Bueno, warned in an interview that tour operators might quickly cease providing stays in Puerto Rico and different Canary Island resorts due to the “wrong image” given by the migrants. “Tourism and migration are simply not compatible,” she mentioned.

Even although vacationers now occupy solely 7 p.c of the resort beds operated by members of his affiliation, Mr. Smulders forecast that the variety of holidaymakers from northern Europe would rise quickly as soon as airways reopened extra routes to the archipelago. The Canary Islands have maintained a low degree of Covid-19 an infection, he mentioned, by following strict lockdown guidelines and likewise requiring all guests to check for coronavirus earlier than touring.

“Winter is our main tourism season, and when you come as a tourist, you don’t want to be next to a building that is filled with migrants,” mentioned Mr. Smulders.

Spain’s authorities is led by a Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the regional authorities of the Canary Islands can also be Socialist-led. But the politicians have struggled to coordinate their response to the islands’ migration disaster. The archipelago’s politicians say the central authorities reacted too late and is now scrambling to rebuild infrastructure that was unnecessarily dismantled after 2006, when the islands final witnessed a mass inflow, with about 36,000 arrivals that yr.

Once the Mediterranean grew to become more durable to cross for migrants, “We had the capacity to do a lot more to prepare for this, but I think that somebody in Madrid thought that the Canary Islands had somehow magically changed their location on the map and migrants would never get here again,” Noemí Santana, the regional minister for social rights within the Canary Islands, mentioned in an interview.

While grownup migrants are the duty of the central authorities, Ms. Santana and her officers act as authorized guardians for about 2,000 underage and unaccompanied migrants scattered throughout a number of youth facilities.

Their quantity has quadrupled since January and, just like the adults, the kids are principally Moroccans. Many first traveled from inland Morocco to the shores of the Western Sahara, a longstanding territorial battle space the place hostilities lately resumed.

Saïd, 16, and his cousin Mohamed, 17, left their city of El Kelaa des Srarhna, northeast of the tourism hub of Marrakesh, to succeed in Dakhla, within the Western Sahara, the place they then boarded a ship sure for the Canary Islands.

Saïd mentioned his elder brother paid traffickers about €1,000 for his journey. “The young people in Morocco can now only look forward to misery, because there is the coronavirus, so really no way to work and earn money,” mentioned Saïd, whose full identify can’t be disclosed underneath Spanish guidelines that defend underage migrants.

Saïd and his cousin are in a youth middle with a makeshift prayer space, a soccer pitch and leafy environment, within the grounds of an deserted farmhouse.

One of the administrators of the native nongovernment affiliation working the middle, Enrique Quintana, mentioned his job at instances felt like “looking after vulnerable babies,” as a result of “migrating to another country with a different language and culture means that you really start again from zero, whatever you might have achieved before in your life.”

Like all his companions from Senegal within the Puerto Rico resort, Mr. Diop barely hung out in school and as a substitute grew to become a fisherman when he was 12.

However, he mentioned he struggled to outlive, with Covid-19 restrictions hurting the native fishing business, already underneath strain from Chinese trawlers working in Senegalese waters.

Mr. Diop mentioned he left Senegal with out telling his household and now hoped to get journey paperwork to succeed in Madrid, whose most well-known soccer crew, Real Madrid, he loves. But underlining his lack of preparations, he sounded shocked to be taught that Madrid was a landlocked capital.

“If I cannot fish in Madrid, I will do anything else that gets me money,” he mentioned. “I don’t recommend that anybody try to get to the islands like I did by boat — it’s far too dangerous — but I also don’t want to be back in Senegal, where we sold our sea to the Chinese.”

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