MS Risk Blog

Spain’s Ongoing Migrant Crisis

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Day after day hundreds of individuals are attempting the dangerous journey from Western Africa to Spain. The Canary Islands has become a major route for migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing conflict, violence, and economic hardships worsened by the pandemic. Migrant boats are travelling anywhere from 400 to 1,500 kilometers to reach Europe, and often run out of food, water, and fuel. Despite the conditions, immigrants arriving on the Spanish shore is up 21% since January 2021, compared to the same time last year.

The coronavirus pandemic greatly influenced last years and this year’s figures. As restrictions are lifted, the figures grow. Migrants come not only by sea from Africa. About 90 percent are Latin American migrants that arrive on the islands via plane. However, much of media focuses on the migrants coming from Africa. There has been a restriction on flights from Brazil and Latin America since mid-February, which has recently been extended until May 25, so much of the focus is on individuals making the, sometimes deadly, journey from western Africa in flimsy boats.

One example is the attempted rescue of a 2-year-old girl, who with her mother and sister, arrived from Mali to the port of Arguineguiín on the Grand Canary Island in critical condition. The little girl was taken to the hospital after resuscitation efforts were made by nurses on the dock. She soon after passed away. The toddler’s dramatic rescue made the front pages of several Spanish newspaper and highlighted, for many, the difficulty of people seeking new life in Europe. The event triggered reactions from the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the leader of the opposition, Pablo Casado. Both released statements expressing their condolences. The girl was one of 52 people found on the vessel.

Another unfortunate event was the death of 24 migrants discovered on board a wooden boat on April 29, 2021. The victims, all presumed sub-Saharan migrants were first discovered in a wooden boat by a Spanish Air Force plane. It is believed they died of thirst and hunger as they tried to reach the Canaries.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will make the reverse journey, travelling from Spain to Senegal and Angola, to launch new initiatives to contain the migration. The leftist government has proposed boosting Madrid’s economic links with several African nations by 2023. The strategy, called Africa Focus 2023, includes plans for the government to offer financial programs for Spanish companies seeking to expand in Africa. As well as, financially and politically supporting law enforcement agencies in African states that are on the front line against people smugglers.

Spain hopes the initiatives will encourage Africans to come to Spain to train for jobs which could be beneficially for the economy. Along with the Africa Focus 2023 program, a Spanish warship will be deployed off the coast of West Africa to combat smugglers and pirates.

With funds being stretched to combat the migration influx, countries are limited in what they can do and provide without financial help from the EU. Nations through-out Europe, specifically those with left-leaning governments, will be looking to see the success of the strategy. Like Spain, member states have failed at obtaining the support needed from the European Union. With certain countries receiving thousands of migrants monthly the EU will have to step in. Capacities for reception, identification, integration, and care options for children remain insufficient. Authorities have been left struggling with a way to cope amongst the continuous number of arrivals with thousands living in makeshift camps. Emergency camps were set up, but the number of migrants trying to escape the economic crisis, heightened by the pandemic, shows no signs of slowing down.