Migrant crisis in the Canary Islands

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Migrant crisis in the Canary Islands

MIGRANT crisis in the Canary Islands sees substandard accommodation and the potential for coronavirus outbreaks if left unattended to.

The Spanish government has taken the controversial decision to open a range of new shelters in the Canary Islands due to the ever-increasing swell in migrant arrivals.

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The total of migrants arriving since the beginning of the year has increased to a massive 4,000 individuals which is a massive seven-fold upsurge on this time last year.

According to the Secretary of State for Migration, the shelters are absolutely necessary to attend to the surge of incoming migrants. The government of the Canary Islands have insisted for a number of years that the central government assist them in dealing with the increasing situation. Furthermore, the necessity has taken on greater urgency due to the coronavirus pandemic as it is causing difficulty in controlling social contact which could increase community contagion for the Islands.

Over the past year there has been a clamp down on border controls in northern Morocco which sees swaths of migrants being diverted across to the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands are a mere 95 kilometres from the coast of Morocco which is the next nearest exit point for migrants seeking to start a new life.


As a result of this influx, the local government in the Canary Islands have struggled to keep up with basic accommodations to assist the migrants. Much of the accommodation provided to date has been makeshift and had to be improvised therefore there are fundamental issues with the accommodation meeting basic human standards. As such, many of the migrants have been forced to seek refuge in local empty factories, docks and warehouses.

Despite to concerted effort to ensure that facilities are available for the new arrivals, there is still a number of months before the new environments will be open.


A source that works for the Secretary of State for Migrants said, “Due to the processing times required, temporary resources will be sent to allow hundreds of people to be homed in dignified conditions. In October 2019, the Canary Islands had fewer than 100 spots at shelters, now there are 2,000, 600 of which we have created in the last two weeks,”

An abandoned Defence facility is being consider as one of the sites for the new accommodation, a proposal which was immediately backed by the leader of the local government, Angel Víctor Torres

At the start of this week a total of six boats reached the shores of Gran Canaria and Tenerife. This is on top of a further 200 people that arrived the previous week.

The ever-increasing number of migrant arrivals has put a severe strain on the islands with most of the new comers having to live in substandard accommodations.

A local paediatrician has been quoted as saying, “The accommodation conditions are worse than at refugee camps in countries like South Sudan, Angola and Iraq, as one of our colleagues has confirmed”

Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown up particular issues relating to the migrant’s health and safety as current methods of social distancing and sanitisation are unable to be appropriately implemented in the current accommodation.

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