PUERTO RICO, Spain — After braving the Atlantic on a rickety and overcrowded fishing boat for six days, a gaggle of younger Senegalese has spent the previous three weeks in a three-star resort within the Canary Islands, overlooking a spectacular seaside lapped by pristine waters.
Whereas relieved to have survived their perilous journey to the Canary Islands, which has develop 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 loopy journey, I’m pleased to be alive, however I actually don’t know how lengthy I can keep right here and the place I can go subsequent,” 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 to this point this yr, regardless of a number of lethal shipwrecks off Senegal and different African international locations, in addition to some that occurred simply because the boats have been reaching the shores of the Spanish archipelago. At the least 568 individuals have died whereas crossing from Africa to the Spanish islands between January and late November, in keeping with the Worldwide Group for Migration.
The sudden inflow of migrants has caught the Spanish authorities flat-footed, regardless that rights activists and different consultants had been warning that traffickers have been prone to divert to the Canary Islands after a rise in patrols just about shut down many Mediterranean routes into Europe, notably from Libya.
As a substitute, Spain is now pressuring its companions within the European Union to ascertain a system to distribute migrants equitably throughout member international locations, 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 tremendously difficult deportations.
“We’re the southern border of Europe, not of Spain,” Hana Jalloul, Spain’s migration secretary, mentioned in a video convention name with a gaggle of overseas correspondents late final month. Different European international locations that obtain fewer migrants “ought to consider our scenario,” she added.
The regular inflow of migrants is hitting Spain because the coronavirus has stifled its financial 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 gentle 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.
For the reason that 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 fundamental islands of the archipelago, to 17 lodges which were shuttered by the pandemic, a number of of them within the seaside city of Puerto Rico.
The transfer was initially welcomed by native hoteliers, who obtained 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 move of arrivals has proven no signal of easing.
Late final month, tons of of residents demonstrated to demand the departure of the migrants, saying that their presence might deter European vacationers because the winter season begins.
“We must always put them on planes and ship them dwelling, as a result of we now have individuals residing right here who’ve invested some huge cash to fill this stunning place with vacationers, and definitely not migrants,” mentioned one of many protesters, Teresa García Llarena, a pensioner and former worker of a automotive rental firm.
The island’s fundamental affiliation of hoteliers didn’t again the protest, however its Dutch president, Tom Smulders, mentioned that “this disaster scenario has obtained so far as it might go” and he urged Spain’s authorities to evacuate all migrants from lodges by the tip 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 “mistaken picture” given by the migrants. “Tourism and migration are merely not suitable,” she mentioned.
Despite the fact that 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 stage 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 fundamental tourism season, and while you come as a vacationer, you don’t wish to be subsequent to a constructing that’s full of 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. However 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.
As soon as the Mediterranean turned more durable to cross for migrants, “We had the capability to do much more to arrange for this, however I feel that anyone in Madrid thought that the Canary Islands had in some way magically modified their location on the map and migrants would by no means get right here once more,” Noemí Santana, the regional minister for social rights within the Canary Islands, mentioned in an interview.
Whereas 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 certain for the Canary Islands.
Saïd mentioned his elder brother paid traffickers about €1,000 for his journey. “The younger individuals in Morocco can now solely stay up for distress, as a result of there may be the coronavirus, so actually no technique to work and earn cash,” mentioned Saïd, whose full identify can’t be disclosed beneath Spanish guidelines that shield 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 many administrators of the native nongovernment affiliation working the middle, Enrique Quintana, mentioned his job at occasions felt like “taking care of susceptible infants,” as a result of “migrating to a different nation with a special language and tradition implies that you actually begin once more from zero, no matter you might need achieved earlier than 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 turned a fisherman when he was 12.
Nonetheless, he mentioned he struggled to outlive, with Covid-19 restrictions hurting the native fishing business, already beneath stress from Chinese language 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 staff, Actual Madrid, he loves. However underlining his lack of preparations, he sounded shocked to be taught that Madrid was a landlocked capital.
“If I can’t fish in Madrid, I’ll do the rest that will get me cash,” he mentioned. “I don’t advocate that anyone attempt to get to the islands like I did by boat — it’s far too harmful — however I additionally don’t wish to be again in Senegal, the place we offered our sea to the Chinese language.”