Spain dismantles ‘dock of shame’ in Canary Islands

The last to leave were 27 migrants who had tested positive for coronavirus.

Spain dismantles ‘dock of shame’ in Canary Islands

Spanish authorities have dismantled the bulk of a makeshift camp for migrant processing that for more than three months was known as the “dock of shame” for holding in unfit conditions thousands of Africans who arrived in the Canary Islands.

The Spanish government’s delegation in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago confirmed that all the 830 people who were being held on Friday at the Arguineguin dock, on the south-western coast of Gran Canaria, had been moved out by Sunday night to other facilities.

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

Under a dozen marquees and assisted by Red Cross volunteers, most of the 14,000 migrants arriving since late August have spent time at the Arguineguin dock. At its peak, in mid-November, nearly 2,600 people slept, ate and were tested in the makeshift facility, under police watch, upon arrival on maritime rescue boats.

Empty makeshift migrant camp
The now empty makeshift migrant camp (Javier Fergo/AP)

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, critics have said.

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

The island group is better known for its beaches, volcanic landscapes and other natural wonders that in non-coronavirus times attract millions of visitors.

The left-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is trying to reactivate deportations to Morocco, where most of the migrants are coming from, and other western African countries, while transferring to the Spanish mainland only a few of them, mostly women, children 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 UN’s International Organisation for Migration, at least 500 have died while attempting to reach the islands that they see as a stepping stone into Europe.

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