Migrants Set Up Makeshift Camp On Spain’s Canary Islands

With claims of the official migrant camp lacking adequate conditions, food, and medical services, migrants have created a makeshift camp on Spain’s Canary Islands. Under the pressure of increasing migration from Africa, the officials converted a former military facility to house thousands of migrants in the Canaries. The official camp, Las Raices, is located in San Cristobal de La Laguna in Tenerife. More than 1,500 migrants have been housed there for the past two months, according to Reuters. The dozens of migrants, mostly young men from Morocco, that have left named the inadequate provision of basic necessities, such as food, medical attention, and sanitary showers, as the reason for their leaving. 

“The situation is quite desperate,” reports Robert Mesa, a member of the Tenerife Migrants Support Assembly, a volunteer group that supports migrants with food and clothing. “The food is scarce, the medical service is scarce, they have few translators, few doctors,” he added. Babacar, the name given by a Senegalese migrant, said that “The camp is really bad” with not enough showers and consistently bad food. More migrants attest to hour-long waits at dawn for showers that quickly run cold, according to the Associated Press. 

However, the ACCEM; Spain’s Minister of Social Security, Inclusion, and Migration José Luis Escrivá; and a spokeswoman for the migration ministry ardently refute these claims. ACCEM, the humanitarian group managing Las Raices for the Spanish government, reported that while the food could improve, medical attention was available for anyone, according to Reuters. Escrivá said the allegations of poor living conditions or inedible food were “simply false” during a hearing on his management of migrants in the Canaries. The spokeswoman for the migration ministry of the Spanish government mentioned that the food met European standards and the camp is regularly monitored by the European Union asylum agency.

With the official agencies involved all insisting upon tolerable conditions in the migration camp sharply contrasting with migrants’ testimonies, a paradigmatic example of government authority’s ability to disregard concerns of minorities, especially disenfranchised and vulnerable groups such as migrants. Whether the camp’s conditions are truly deplorable or not, it should be absolutely essential to investigate or be open to external investigation regarding claims of human rights violations. While the claimed monitoring of the European Union asylum agency is an imperative first step, these claims must be backed up by the agency’s explicit, current confirmation about the acceptable conditions of the camp. Any allegation referring to the provision of necessities or quality of living conditions must be seriously and impartially addressed. 

With more than 23,000 people from Morocco and West Africa having arrived on the Canary Islands in the past year, an increase of 750% from 2019, the pressure to have suitable housing and care for migrants has significantly increased. This Atlantic route to Europe from North Africa regained popularity after a joint effort between North African countries and the EU increased controls and interception in the Mediterranean. Las Raices is among numerous, frantic efforts to house the surge of migrants during COVID-19, including the construction of six large camps and converting unused tourist hotels. Las Raices is the largest of these camps and has had complaints of inedible food and poor living conditions since its opening. The food has been a particularly contentious point with police detaining several residents regarding food-related tensions just during March. 

The controversies that led to migrants creating their own makeshift camp are representative of the wide range of challenges facing migrants. In addition to the already generally harsh restrictions regarding migrants’ entrance to the European Union, the COVID-19 pandemic has further slowed the entrances of migrants. This results in the overcrowded, low-resourced camps that are being used to house thousands of migrants. The European Union asylum agency must be actively monitoring this controversy and providing sufficient proof that the conditions of the migrants are in fact livable. The current overcrowding and poor conditions project a grim future, especially while COVID-19 remains at large around the world.