Alarm Over Surge in Migrant Arrivals in Canary Islands

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (FT) — The Canary Islands have seen a marked increase in immigrant arrivals in recent weeks, with nearly 900 people reaching the islands’ shores within just 10 days. The sudden rise has caught the attention of analysts and NGOs, who are probing several factors that could be contributing to the spike, including favourable weather conditions, the end of Ramadan and Morocco’s relaxed border controls amid ongoing negotiations with Europe.

Since the start of April, more than 1,000 people have arrived in the Canary Islands via the so-called Canary Route. The Maritime Safety and Rescue Society recently helped a boat carrying 41 sub-Saharan migrants, including four women and a baby, as they tried to reach Lanzarote on a rubber dinghy, according to the EFE news agency.

Earlier this month, rescue services assisted 229 people from five boats, and over 600 received help last week alone.

Journey: New arrivals to the Canary Islands from Morocco.

The Canary Islands Government refused to call the increase a “surge” in migration. Instead, a spokesperson suggested that factors such as good sea conditions and the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan could have led to an uptick in departures from Moroccan shores.

Helena Maleno of Caminando Fronteras, a Spanish NGO that helps migrants arriving in Europe, said it was too simple to say that the newly arrived migrants from Morocco came because of favourable weather and a religious holiday. She said people embark on the dangerous journey even when the weather is bad.

According to Maleno, the real cause of the sudden increase in immigrant arrivals should be linked to Rabat’s political strategy, which involves “manipulating border controls to serve its interests”. She claims this tactic “endangers lives and is part of a larger strategy.”

The Canary Islands Government has called for reflection on the recent arrivals, saying it’s important to scrutinize the factors behind the situation and gain a deeper understanding of those arriving on the islands.

Over the past 30 years, the archipelago has experienced fluctuations in migration patterns, with periods of both increased and decreased arrivals. The key question, says the government, is whether the current influx represents a short-term anomaly or a longer-term trend.

Experts also emphasize the need for a more efficient and coordinated response to rescue operations. Maleno said that while Spain and Morocco appear to collaborate effectively on border control, their efforts to save lives could be significantly improved.

* Photographs courtesy Maritime Safety and Rescue Society.

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