Spain dismantles migrants’ ‘dock of shame’ in Canary Islands

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A worker sanitises the area used by migrants at the Arguineguin port, on the southwestern coast of the Gran Canaria island, Spain on Monday Nov. 30, 2020. Spain has dismantled most of the temporary camp for migrant processing that for over three months became known as the “dock of shame” for holding in unfit conditions thousands of Africans arriving lately in the Canary Islands. (AP Photo/Javier Fergo)

ARGUINEGUIN, Spain (AP) — Spanish authorities have dismantled a makeshift camp for migrant processing that for over three months was known as the “dock of shame” for holding thousands of Africans in squalor after they arrived in the Canary Islands.

The Spanish government’s delegation in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago confirmed Monday that all the 830 people held Friday at the Arguineguín dock, on the southwestern coast of Gran Canaria Island, had been moved out by Sunday night to other facilities.

The last to leave were 27 migrants who have tested positive for coronavirus and were placed in isolation.

Assisted by Red Cross volunteers, most of the 14,000 migrants arriving since late August have spent time at the Arguineguín dock. In November, nearly 2,600 people slept, ate and were tested in the makeshift facility under police watch after arriving on maritime rescue boats.

The facility had been criticized by human rights organizations and Spain’s ombudsman for its poor conditions. Many migrants were left to sleep with just a blanket and no showers. Potential asylum-seekers had no proper access to legal advice and some people were held for much longer than the three days that the law allows.

All migrants have been relocated to makeshift military facilities with better infrastructure and hotels across Gran Canaria and other islands, Anselmo Pestana, the Spanish government delegate in the archipelago, told reporters on Monday.

The Spanish Atlantic Ocean archipelago off the west coast of Africa is better known for its beaches, volcanic landscapes and other natural wonders that in non-coronavirus times attracted millions of visitors from European countries.

Spain’s left-wing ruling government coalition, led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, is trying to reactivate deportations to Morocco, where most of the migrants are coming from, and other Western African countries. It has transferred to the Spanish mainland only a few of the migrants, mostly women, minors and a reduced number of asylum-seekers.

More than 20,000 people seeking a better life have arrived so far this year in the Spanish archipelago, up from 1,500 in the same period of 2019. According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 500 people have died while attempting to reach the islands that they see as a stepping stone into Europe.

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Parra reported from Madrid.

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