What they are not telling you about Arguineguin and the surge of migrants and refugees in the Canary Islands

21 October, 2020 · News> Europe> Spain

Right now, there are more than 800 people crowded in Arguineguín in the Canary Islands. Over 9,100 migrants and refugees have arrived so far this year in cayucos (large seafaring canoes) and boats. Over 8 times those who did so in all of 2019. This is not tourism, arriving means surviving a hellish journey from Dakhla in which the chances of death are high. Dakhla is on the border of Western Sahara with Mauritania, at the southern tip of the territory under Moroccan control. Sailing from Dakhla means staying put for a week, sleeping and defecating among everyone else onboard in one of the areas with the strongest currents in the Atlantic, with insufficient food and water and under a scorching sun. This only makes it more striking the fact that now it is not only Malians fleeing from the French war in the Sahel or Guineans fleeing from the drug cartels. The last boats are full of young Moroccans. Young people, workers in their great majority, who when arriving find… a funnel. Because as the chieftains of the Canarian Coalition claim:

The strategy of the central government is clear: to concentrate the immigrants in the Canary Islands, preventing their transfer to the continent, which turns the islands into a prison for them

It is a deliberate policy cooked up in the EU, the same one that led to monstrosities like Lampedusa. As the government-aligned newspaper, El País, acknowledges, between 55% and 60% of migrant accommodation places on continental Spain are vacant, but the Ministry of Interior has only authorized tiny transfers both from Melilla, where 2,000 migrants are crowded together and from the Canary Islands.

The message that arriving in the Canary Islands does not mean arriving in Europe is conveyed, a strategy that has been tested in other isolated territories acting as a migratory buffer for the continent. With much smaller numbers, the Canary Islands funnel resembles the one experienced by the Italian island of Lampedusa or now the Greek island of Lesbos

Why this wave?

Queues of migrants in the port of Arguineguín waiting for their Covid test.

The so-called migration crisis of 2018 in the EU reinforced the role of Morocco as a buffer: European funds and Spanish payments served to quickly and drastically reduce the migratory flow. All of them were happy and with their eyes tightly closed to the atrocities that were occurring on African soil.

But, well-watered with funds, the Moroccan Makhzen also absorbed migrants. 50,000 refugees from Mali, Guinea Conakry and Senegal were givendocuments and opportunities for work… in the Sahara. The Sahara, although the government says that it is just like any other province, in reality lives under a level of social surveillance and political repression even greater than the rest of the country. The province’s appeal for capital actually lies in the fact that worker protection laws are relaxed when crossing the border, that worker organization is viciously persecuted, and that public scrutiny is even rarer than in the rest of the country. In addition, all of these permits were and are conditioned on having an employment contract. If your employer kicks you out, you are deported.

What happened now? The crisis in all of Morocco is brutal. Workers are fired by the thousands throughout the country… and Migrants confined to the Western Sahara are militarily deported by the hundreds to their countries of origin, regardless of whether they are at war.

For migrants and refugees, the only way out is to go down to Dakhla and run away. But for the young Moroccan passport-holding workers laid off by the pandemic, the situation is no better either. If they stay, the chances of employment in the midst of the state of emergency are few or non-existent. And in Morocco family support is breaking down: the number of families with all members unemployed is growing, and for an increasing number of workers losing their jobs means running out of food. Moreover, if they fall ill in the most affected country in the Maghreb chances are that they will not even have access to one of the scarce 1600 ICU beds, concentrated in the capital, Casablanca and the richer areas. In Morocco as a whole, 42% of young people considered migrating. This is not the so-called pull effect, those who have a job in a chain in a Moroccan company, who earn 150 euros per month for 12 hours of work six days a week, will not risk crossing the Atlantic in a skiff paying 2,000 euros for a ticket to dehydration and often death.

Are the neighbors of Arguineguín racist?

The Minister of Social Security and Migration challenged by a neighbor.

Mogán is not exactly a place where great fortunes are concentrated. The average disposable income is 16,655 euros. Only 6,400 of the 23,400 inhabitants earn enough to pay income tax. And Arguineguín is a fishing village within the municipality of Mogán. As public services it has a municipal bus line and a health center. It had a school, but the 2018 rains damaged it and it was never allowed to reopen despite the protests and mobilizations of the neighbors. That center was reopened to house migrants who were already arriving in boats this summer. When Minister Escrivá appeared with the Mayor of Las Palmas in July, neighbors gathered at the door to whistle and insult the politicians.

There is a lot of unemployment here and little investment. Only one bus passes by every hour. It is normal that people get angry if they see that there is money to bring in immigrants but not for their children to go to school.

In Arguineguín those who do not depend on collecting temporary layoffs depend on emergency aid. So when the mayor and the minister in charge of distributing aid and paying the temporary layoffs that have remained unpaid for four months told the neighbors that migrants were having a hard time, there was no shortage of responses:

These people are having a bad time? The families here are having a hard time, because we do not have enough to eat.

The same media and politicians who for decades have fed xenophobia in all its forms – against North African, Venezuelan or sub-Saharan workers- called the neighbors racist while calling themselves brave for confronting them. The truth? The endless cynicism of politicians who deny the most basic needs of workers and scold them for being selfish. Cynicism that in the end uses the same lying principle of the racists. When the minister and the mayor scold neighbors for demanding basic public services because there is a humanitarian emergency to be attended to, they are enunciating in a different way the racist and lying discourse according to which what goes to the vital care of migrants goes out of what should go to the basic services for workers. A zero-sum game. It is hard to be pettier and more morally miserable.

Those responsible for this state of things

Sánchez reviews Spanish troops in Mali.

A good list could be made of those responsible, starting with the French state and its imperialist adventures in Africa, supported by Germany and Spain, among others; followed by the EU, which agreed to pay Morocco in order to ease migratory pressure without regard to means – and we already know what deadly means the Makhzen uses; continuing by the Spanish government, which is turning entire islands and cities of African Spain into internment camps and the peninsular internment camps into real camps of shame; and ending in the autonomous community and the city council, local chieftain structures that tax the poor to encourage the accumulation of the local hotel and smuggling bourgeoisie. An impressive …and universal picture.

The Malian shepherd who flees from the weekly massacres incited by the presence of the French and Spanish military, the young Moroccan worker who risks his life to find work, and the worker from Arguineguín who has received his temporary layoff payments and whose children’s school is being closed, are suffering at the hands of the same people and for the same reasons.

Sánchez reviews Spanish troops in Mali.

A good list could be made of those responsible, starting with the French state and its imperialist adventures in Africa, supported by Germany and Spain, among others; followed by the EU, which agreed to pay Morocco in order to ease migratory pressure without regard to means – and we already know what deadly means the Makhzen uses; continuing by the Spanish government, which is turning entire islands and cities of African Spain into internment camps and the peninsular internment camps into real camps of shame; and ending in the autonomous community and the city council, local chieftain structures that tax the poor to encourage the accumulation of the local hotel and smuggling bourgeoisie. An impressive …and universal picture.

The Malian shepherd who flees from the weekly massacres incited by the presence of the French and Spanish military, the young Moroccan worker who risks his life to find work, and the worker from Arguineguín who has received his temporary layoff payments and whose children’s school is being closed, are suffering at the hands of the same people and for the same reasons.

The pandemic has given us the opportunity to see how the ruling class spends its money, how it doesn’t shy away from ruling out lockdowns, even if they take away thousands and thousands of lives only in Spain, in order to keep business as profitable as possible. Because at this point, they only know how to keep business going, with the expected profits, by putting health and the economy on a balance, that is to say, between our dead and their profits. Whether in Spain, Brazil, Argentina, the USA, Mali or Morocco. Everywhere is like that. The ruling class media applauds and chants symbolic funerals for the money lost by the pubs, but they have no time for the 3,000 people who died already during the second wave, much less to ask how it could have been avoided because, in the end, the answer is obvious yet bad for business.

How are we to believe the cynical politicians or the false solidarity of companies and NGOs? Rather we have to wonder why they show us touching reports blaming local workers with shallow stuff but refrain from asking the most basic question: what drives a Moroccan worker to risk his life in these conditions to opt for a hyper-precarious job?

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