The Government of the Canary Islands multiplies the calls for attention on immigration and the assistance of unaccompanied minors. The increase in arrivals of canoes and boats since August has brought the total number of children in care to approximately 2,700. Up to 1,100 of them have arrived on the islands between August and September 15, according to the data the general director of Child and Family Protection, Sandra Rodríguez. "This situation puts us in tension and has put us on alert, for what it may mean for the months of October."
The last of these calls for attention was carried out on Wednesday by the President of the Canarian Government, Fernando Clavijo, after meeting with King Felipe VI at the Palacio de la Zarzuela. "I have transferred [to Felipe VI] the need for Europe and the Government of Spain to take this issue with the same seriousness and gravity with which other matters of the European Union are taken," he said in subsequent statements to the media, to which he predicted "a notable increase in influx on this route that, On the other hand, it is the most dangerous."
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As of September 14, 14,359 people have arrived on the islands by sea, 24.6% more than a year ago. In the first half of September alone, 2,920 people arrived in the Canary Islands, more than triple that in the same period last year and almost the same number as those registered throughout August. In 2020 and 2021, the bulk of arrivals were concentrated in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria, with departures from southern Morocco or Western Sahara and the use of boats and inflatables. The proliferation of cayucos is shifting the focus to other islands such as El Hierro, the westernmost.
These arrivals are accompanied by an increase in unaccompanied migrant children. To serve them, according to sources of the Executive, the opening and reopening of centers are being accelerated, which currently total 43 on the islands – in addition to another 400 places managed by the councils. The places in El Hierro have been expanded by 140. In addition, the opening of half a dozen resources in Tenerife and Gran Canaria has been carried out or is being finalized. "We are working with other ministries with the aim of having other resources for this first reception. Faced with this situation, priorities change, the urgency is what it is," says Rodríguez. "But we cannot forget that obvious children must be schooled; Those who are not do not remain idle, and must be part of training workshops, training cycles in the environment, sports activities, Spanish classes ...".
One of the demands of the Canarian Government is to have sufficient financial resources. "The islands cannot cope with the situation only with the six million allocated," the Minister of Social Welfare, Equality, Youth, Children and Families of the Executive, Candelaria Delgado, recently explained to EL PAÍS, referring to the money that the Central Executive approved in the Council of Ministers in September 2022 for the care of unaccompanied foreign minors. Sandra Rodríguez assures in turn that the cost that is assuming for the autonomous community of the Canary Islands, in addition to Ceuta, for example, is that it is being financed via subsidies. "Working with them means justifying income, delivery of documentation, with the complications that entails," completes the general director. "This is a fixed expense for the Canary Islands, it is not simply due to the fact that there has been a rebound. We must act and be next to the Canary Islands: many of these children arrive and stay on the islands for an average of three or four years."
King Felipe VI received on Wednesday, September 20, the president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, at the Zarzuela Palace. Juan Carlos Hidalgo (EFE)
Sources from the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030 assure that "the will of the ministry, and of the entire Government, is to guarantee that minors are cared for and that the autonomous communities have the relevant tools at their disposal to do so." To this end, they detail that in 2020 the islands were granted aid of 10 million euros to deal with the care of children and that, in 2022, the autonomous communities were provided with 35 million euros for the care and referral of these minors. The first payment, of 15 million, was dedicated exclusively to the main welcoming regions (Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla), of which the Canary Islands corresponded to six million, in addition to another subsequent transfer of 1.2 million. This year, the islands have received those six million again. "Currently," say the sources, "and in the face of the referral of minors in 2023 and the subsequent distribution of funds, the autonomous communities have been meeting last week with the General Directorate of Children of the Ministry, in a delegated commission to address this issue. "
With regard to referrals, both Rodríguez and Councilor Candelaria Delgado stress the need to expedite referrals to other islands. "The State has to understand that the problem is more serious than a punctual distribution," says the director general. "It is urgent to stop talking about interterritorial solidarity and demand co-responsibility," said the counselor on Friday during a visit to the immediate reception center for unaccompanied migrant minors in Valverde (El Hierro). "The Canary Islands cannot take on the migration problem alone. It is a matter of State and we demand that legislation be made on this matter. It is not sustainable for us to continue to take full responsibility."
According to data from the ministry, since 2021 the transfer of 348 minors from the Canary Islands to the different provinces of the 539 that were planned has been carried out. To these children we would have to add another 360 who are pending distribution among the autonomous communities during this year 2023. "We understand the emergency situation that the Canary Islands are facing," explain sources of Social Rights, "and that is why the teams of the ministry are addressing together with the rest of the communities ―which are the ones who ultimately have the exclusive competence of child care― this distribution to reach a solidarity agreement that is currently underway and that we hope will be resolved as soon as possible, so it would not be necessary to make forced displacements."
In this sense, the former president of the Canary Islands and leader of the opposition, Ángel Víctor Torres, assured on Wednesday to Radio Nacional de España that the partners of the Canarian Coalition, the Popular Party, should put pressure so that the communities they govern welcome minors. "What we have to do is demand from the Government of Spain and Europe, that there be a migration asylum pact," he said. "And to the rest of the autonomous communities that the Canary Islands lend a hand, that this solidarity is obligatory and that it does not happen to you like me, who spent several years trying, for example, Isabel Díaz Ayuso to answer us: six million inhabitants have Madrid and very few unaccompanied minors. And they didn't even respond to our letters."
In this reception with the King, Fernando Clavijo again claimed the need for a "single command" to manage migration. Request that was also discussed last week at the meeting held in Madrid by the acting Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, with the Minister of the Presidency, Public Administration, Justice and Security of the Government of the Canary Islands, Nieves Lady Barreto. After the meeting, Marlaska promised to include a Canarian representative in the informative meetings (not operational) of coordination of migratory movements, which from now on will occur every ten days, according to Interior sources, reports Patricia Ortega Dolz.
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