Migrants arriving in Canary Islands go to barracks, hotels

MADRID (AP) — Emergency services in Spain’s Canary Islands say 68 people from North Africa have been the first migrants to arrive in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago since authorities dismantled a squalid makeshift camp that had brought criticism and shame to the government.

One boat with 34 men was rescued by Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service, while another boat with 33 adults and one teenager, all men, docked in Maspalomas beach on Gran Canaria Island, the 112 emergency service tweeted Tuesday.

The migrants were taken to the Arguineguín dock on the same island, which closed as a processing center Monday after three months of criticism for holding thousands of Africans in squalor, some times for weeks, while they were identified and tested for the coronavirus.

Spain’s ombudsman had ordered the makeshift camp’s closure, where potential asylum-seekers had difficulty accessing legal counseling.

A minimal structure has been left to deal with new arrivals before the migrants and asylum-seekers are distributed between military barracks — where they can be only held for up to 72 hours — empty hotels or other facilities.

More than 20,000 people seeking a better life have arrived so far this year in the Spanish archipelago across from the northwest African coast, up from 1,500 in the same period of 2019. At least 500 people have died in their attempt to reach Europe through the Canary Islands.

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