GRAN CANARIA (Reuters) – Demonstrators on the Canary Islands on Saturday demanded better living conditions for thousands of migrants who have reached the Spanish archipelago from Africa.
A slow procession of hundreds of demonstrators, some on foot and some in cars, crossed the island of Gran Canaria before reaching the Arguineguin dock in the town of Mogan, where nearly 2,000 migrants are living in tents in conditions that an immigration judge has called “inhumane and degrading”.
Over 700 migrants in small boats were rescued on Saturday, coastguards said, bringing the number of people who have reached the islands by the dangerous Atlantic route from Africa to nearly 17,000 this year – more than 10 times last year’s total.
Deepening economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic is pushing more people in developing nations to seek better lives elsewhere, while tightened security in the Mediterranean means more migrants are attempting the Atlantic crossing, with many dying along the way.
“We are here fighting for a more dignified reception for these people who arrive in our island to find a better life,” said one demonstrator, teacher Famara Brito.
Aid groups estimate about 4,000 migrants are living in tourist hotels because of the lack of refugee reception centres.
The Federation of Hospitality and Tourism Enterprises of Gran Canaria called on Saturday on the government to act so hotels could be used again for tourists.
Spain’s regional policy minister said on Friday it would expand naval patrols around the Canary Islands and set up more migrant centres in response to the surge in arrivals.
(Reporting by Borja Suarez, writing by Graham Keeley; editing by John Stonestreet)