Spain is rapidly becoming a popular destination for African migrants hoping to illegally enter the European Union, as recent events show.
Although the usual route African migrants attempt to take is through Italy or Malta, recent activity shows that Spain is beginning to receive more migrants than ever before. Over the past several months, Italy and Malta have closed their ports to illegal migrants as a result of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which makes them much less tempting targets than they were before. Ships operated by pro-migrant NGOs have also reduced their operations in the Mediterranean of late, which further hampers the migrants’ efforts.
To attempt to reach Spain as an alternative, migrants depart from western Africa and cross the Atlantic, hoping to reach the Canary Islands, an autonomous region that is under Spanish jurisdiction. At its closest point, the Canaries are only 100 kilometres west from the coast of Morocco. This route is more dangerous than the Mediterranean, however, because the Atlantic Ocean tends to be considerably rougher.
More than 50 African migrants were intercepted on Sunday off the coast of the island of Gran Canaria, according to a by Reuters. A fishing craft had spotted the migrants’ dinghy and notified the Spanish Coast Guard, which then rescued them. The Coast Guard took them to the port city of Arguineguin.
The Red Cross, which took the migrants into custody, reported that all of them are male and from sub-Saharan countries. 35 are believed to be under the age of 18. Red Cross staff wearing protective gear took their temperatures as a Wuhan coronavirus precaution.
Spain’s Ministry of the Interior has reported that illegal migration to the Canaries is up nearly 700% this year as compared to the same period last year. As of the end of April, 1,936 migrants had arrived there; last year, there were only 243.
Spain has been cracking down on human traffickers who smuggle illegal migrants into the country. Earlier this year, Spanish authorities arrested 26 people suspected of being human traffickers, as previously by Voice of Europe.