Mediterranean Dialogue
Canary Islands: First stop or final destination for Migrants from Africa?


In November 2020, 8.200 migrants arrived at the Canary Islands by the sea route. The report about irregular migration of the Spanish Ministry of the Interior reveals a growth rate of 756.8% during 2020 compared to 2019, equivalent to 23.023 arrivals. A historic record for the Spanish archipelago.

A new crisis adds to the COVID scenario

The management of the migration crisis by the central government, led by the socialist Pedro Sánchez, has generated a wave of discontent in local administrations, due to the improvisation of solutions that included the relocation of migrants in hotels and the installation of new camps in Gran Canaria. Without prior knowledge of the corresponding authorities, the Spanish government decided to transfer some migrants to the mainland.

The government of the Canary Islands and local administrations are demanding an increase in the number of transfers to the mainland and the establishment of distribution quotas with other autonomous communities. The option of repatriation for the thousands of migrants who arrived to the Spanish shores is still on the table.

The start of 2021 does not seem very optimistic. The migratory pressure is now increasing due to a series of protests against migrants, who are accused of being detrimental to the tourism sector and of being responsible for an increase in crime rates. This situation has generated a peak in xenophobic discourse in the social sphere and an increase in attacks on migrants.

This situation is occurring at a time when the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) warns in its publication "Migration Outlook 2021- Seven Things to look out for 2021" of an imminent change in migration routes to Europe, highlighting the exponential growth of the West African Route (to the Canary Islands).

Liberal proposals, a way out of the migration crisis

The Ciudadanos Parliamentary Group in the Spanish Congress has presented a proposal for "the establishment of a Contingency Plan with measures to control irregular immigration".

The Spanish liberal party has highlighted the urgency of establishing efficient coordination between the different Ministries in order to contain and tackle the migratory crisis in the Canary Islands: the strengthening of diplomatic relations with Morocco and the establishment of a coordinated cooperation plan between the two countries. Furthermore, Ciudadanos pointed out that it is fundamental to reinforce FRONTEX presence in order to contain the arrivals to the islands; as well as the extension of National Police and Guardia Civil workforce and the implementation of an Integrated External Surveillance System (SIVE), among others.

During the last parliamentary session in the Spanish congress, Pablo Cambronero from Ciudadanos has demanded the creation of "serious and firm" protocols that provide protection and security to the Security Forces agents, as well as, to all those people who are involved in the reception, custody and transfer of migrants arriving in small boats.

The Spanish Deputy, expert in the security field, recalls that it is essential to strengthen the agreements with the countries of transit and origin, as well as the implementation of effective strategies to combat the mafias involved in human trafficking.