20,000 men, women and children reaching the shores of Spain since January 1st this year (1300 this weekend). In 8 months the numbers are three times last year. I am still trying to figure out if there is any specific reason for the huge increase in numbers. Those that make it to the shore often swimming the last 100 meters arrive half dead scattered on beaches amongst the sunbathing tourists. Sunday’s El Pais has an article, The Canaries, The Threatened Paradise
What years ago a was slow and distant dripping of pateras (wooden boats), disembarking ten, twelve Moroccans, Senegalese’s, Guineanos or Gambians on beaches of Fuerteventura, has become an almost daily arrival of boats with 80, 90, the 100 or most sub-Saharans.”
There are layers of realities around immigration in Spain and Europe as a whole. The country has benefitted from the cheap Moroccan and West Africa labour on construction sights and in their agricultural sector which has resulted in a 2.6% growth in the economy over the past 10 years. Without immigrant labour it would have fallen by 0.6% annually. Similar growth figures apply for the whole of Europe. The Spanish governments rhetoric that it will not tolerate the continued arrival of migrants cannot be taken very seriously as long as Spain continues to need cheap labour to produce cheap food. The difference between today and a year ago is the sheer numbers that are arriving such as the 1,900 since Friday. Another reality for the Spanish is that they are just waking up to the fact that Spain is the geographical space where Europe “almost kisses Africa”(Caryl Phillips – The European Tribe), or is it the other way around? They have forgotten the 700 years of Islamic rule by the Caliphates of North Africa and beyond (711 to 1492).
Arguments are breaking out between the various provincial and city governments over the numbers of migrants each is willing to accept from the two landing points, the Canaries and Andalusia. So far only about 1800 have been deported back to their countries of origin. Two weeks ago, in a further sign of desperation the Spanish government signed an unprecedented agreement with Senegal which will allow the Guardia Civil to patrol Senegalese waters to prevent migrants from leaving their homeland.
Obviously the lure of hard earned money made in Spain drives the migrants to risk their lives often repeatedly to reach Europe. There are many West Africans who have been able to create a successful life in Spain and elsewhere in Europe but there are also many who remain impoverished and vulnerable. I met a guy last Sunday night who arrived by boat two months ago from Mauritania and had been sent to Granada from the Canaries by the government. He had it all worked out that he would be working on a building site and would have his papers in two years – I think he will be lucky if he gets a DVD/CD round and unless there is another amnesty, which is extremely doubtful, he has little chance of getting his papers in two years. The government will take what labour it needs but only for as long as it needs it, then it is bye bye. In Granada there is a noticeable increase in the numbers of mostly Senegalese men on the streets compared to a year ago most if not all absorbed into the street hawking trade. I mentioned this to my Senegalese hair braider. Her response was
“There are too many coming today. Before we were not many. Now there are too many and there is nothing for them to do only to sell CDs. That is not a life”
That’s ok for her to say, she has been here 5 years, is well settled and lives comfortably.