The strategy of concentrating thousands of immigrants in the Canary Islands is straining coexistence on the islands. Incidents have increased in recent weeks, the number of foreigners arriving by boat who now live on the street has skyrocketed and the frustration of immigrants who have spent months in hotels without being able to continue their journey to the Peninsula has turned into protests. In addition, isolated altercations led by immigrants run like wildfire through the networks and serve as xenophobic ammunition: for the second time in little more than a month, neighborhood patrols have been called to “go against the Moors.”
A spectacular fight for control of a car park in Maspalomas, a tourist area in the south of Gran Canaria, lit the fuse that still flickers. In the video, several men are seen attacking two valets. All were Moroccans, some recently arrived by boat and others already settled, but Internet users made their own interpretations, social networks were filled with hateful messages and the National Police had to begin to deny hoaxes. “The young Canary attacked by an immigrant dies”, falsely asserted one of the most shared messages. “This happens in Seville, Madrid or Barcelona three times a day, but it does not have this repercussion,” laments a police source. “They talk about the 10 bad guys, but not the 6,000 good guys.”
But the punches between gorillas they were added to other incidents that have been increasing in recent weeks, according to the mayors of Mogán and San Bartolomé de Tirajana, the municipalities where the hotels that host thousands of immigrants since September are located. Among those incidents, which can range from a drunkenness to an argument on a sports field, crimes are a minority and committed by a small number of people, according to police sources. The data, according to these sources, do not justify the social alarm, but the perception of insecurity has already spread and the authorities assume that it will increase. The pressure from these municipalities has led the Police and the Civil Guard to deploy their anti-riot teams that patrol the hotel areas to reassure the neighbors.
The concern now is to contain the xenophobia that is beginning to unfold. As happened in mid-December in the municipality of Arguineguín, some residents of Gran Canaria are mobilizing in networks to gather neighborhood patrols “against the Moors” between this Friday and Saturday, as some texts of the call collect. Both the Police and the Civil Guard are investigating the origin of the messages to prevent them from turning into violence against immigrants. At the moment there is already a detainee for recording himself threatening a young Moroccan from his car with a knife in the passenger seat. “We are very worried. Incidents are being maliciously magnified. And the atmosphere, instead of calming down, becomes even more tense ”, laments the deputy director of Social Inclusion of the Red Cross, José Javier Sánchez.
The peaks of social tension experienced in the Canary Islands are one of the consequences of concentrating thousands of people, first in hotels and now in camps. It is the European strategy for the southern countries to prevent immigrants from following their way to other EU countries and the problems in local populations have been repeated in other European islands such as Lesbos (Greece) or Lampedusa (Italy). Since last December 10, in addition, practically no immigrant has managed to travel to the Peninsula. Since then, police controls have been constant in ports and airports and, although in theory they ensure compliance with sanitary restrictions, they serve in practice for immigration control. In this time in which no one has been able to follow their path, at least another 2,700 migrants have arrived, according to the fortnightly data of the Ministry of the Interior, and have been expelled – calculating the maximum capacity of the four weekly deportation flights to Laayoune -, about 480 Moroccans.
No roof or means
The stopper on the islands is beginning to have its reflection also in the streets, where more and more immigrants are homeless or without means of subsistence. They lost their place in hotels, were abandoned or expelled and now they sleep on the beach, in portals or in parks. “We are at the limit of our capacities”, warns the Secretary General of Cáritas de Canarias, Caya Suárez, who has seen how in a month and a half the number of immigrant users arriving by boat has doubled: from 126 in November to 246 of the month of January. Among them, Suárez alerts, there is a very relevant part of young people who were in juvenile centers and who have remained on the street after turning 18 or because forensic tests have determined that they were of legal age.
”There is no project for them. Here there has to be a social intervention because we don’t have that much absorption capacity. This is also a very difficult time because the local people are also demanding a lot of help, ”laments the parish priest Jorge Hernández, who is responsible for the small dining room of the church of San Pedro, who also dampens the looming problem.
With thousands of frustrated migration projects, the situation in accommodation, where the basics are covered, but there is no activity to fill the hours, is also beginning to get complicated. They have been hand over hand for months. “We are very stressed, there are colleagues with depression. We just want to get together with our families in the Peninsula and work ”, explains Khalifa Ndiaye from a hotel in Tenerife. This Senegalese, 28-year-old law student, led 170 other compatriots in a protest – including a frustrated hunger strike – to be allowed to leave. The Tenerife protest inspired other migrant groups and this Wednesday about a hundred Senegalese and Malians, including women and children, staged another peaceful protest in a hotel in the south of Gran Canaria. “We have a lot of problems here. I have not risked my life to just eat and sleep, I want to work ”, claims Mando Malick, a 23-year-old Senegalese businessman, father of a one-year-old boy. Malick is about to turn four months on the islands and has lost his patience, but there are some who have been waiting on the islands for a year.