Lost Voices: The Migrant Crisis in the Canary Islands

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The number of mostly undocumented migrants arriving irregularly on Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean last year was more than five times higher than 2018 and 2019 combined.
The impact of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions in north and sub-Saharan Africa pushed many more to embark on the dangerous journey. Additional push factors in this case comprise of the political instrumentalization of migrants by the Kingdom of Morocco (as it happened later in Ceuta), in the case of the departures from Western Sahara, and the fishing arrangements between the EU and some countries in Africa which affected traditional fishing practices and increased departures from Mauritania and Senegal.

The report presents the following conclusions:
• It is critical to establish coordination mechanisms, ensure adequate standards in all reception facilities, and establish a common approach to the quality of services provided.
• In the framework of the coordination established, it will be critical to address communication needs and develop a clear communication policy with adequate tools. RCCE should be incorporated in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
• Transparency needs to be established at an institutional level, providing transparent information on deportations, transfers to the mainland, and rules applicable in each case.
• There is a need to reinforce legal support to migrants over the expulsion claim process, including communication and information of available options and adequate translation.
• Build from the corporate experience of IOM and IFRC to establish AAP frameworks, including community engagement, feedback mechanisms, claims to management, and an extension to all partners engaged in the response.
• There is a need for a communication strategy designed to address the host population and Spanish society at large, highlighting the principled approach and the low conflictive nature of the process.
• Identify and act on rights breaches, retaliation issues in the sites, and unjustified punishment in cases of complaints of the assistance received or of lack of clear information available. The creation of an Ombudsman in charge of ensuring independent address of the gaps and problems identified may be an option to consider.