Since mid-November, the government of Pedro Sánchez has been silently transferring hundreds of young illegal immigrants to bring some relief to the Canary Islands, which has witnessed a 900 percent increase in arrivals this year, which has seen arrivals increase to 21,452 arrivals between Jan. 1 to Dec. 15 this year compared to only 2,168 all of last year.
On No. 20, Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska was on an official visit to Morocco to discuss the issue of rising numbers of illegal crossings from Africa to the Spanish archipelago, many of whom depart from coasts controlled by Rabat in Morocco and Western Sahara. In spite of reception facilities being overcrowded in the Canary Islands, Grande-Marlaska insisted Spain would not transfer migrants to mainland Spain, as this would risk converting those islands in the Atlantic Ocean into a new entry point to mainland Europe.
According to the Spanish authorities, most illegal immigrants arriving on small boats to the Canary Islands do not qualify for asylum and should be deported back to their country of origin.
On the same day that Grande-Marlaska was holding discussions with his Moroccan counterpart, a plane transporting dozens of such migrants landed in Malaga. According to messages exchanged between top police officials on that day and shortly after, such a transfer of illegal immigrants from the Canary Islands was nothing exceptional. Since mid-November, there have been regular landings of groups of migrants, mostly young and healthy men, according to witnesses. Between Dec. 4 and Dec. 8 alone, as many as eight planes transporting some 500 illegal immigrants landed at the airports of Valencia and Alicante. Others have landed in cities such as Madrid and Granada as well.
Local authorities are usually kept unaware of the incoming flights of migrants. Furthermore, as confirmed by witnesses and images published on social media and by traditional media outlets, in many cases, no authorities were present to receive the migrants or even control whether they had been tested for Covid-19. All migrants were allowed to leave the airport by their own means, and their whereabouts remain unknown.
Asked about the flights, the Spanish interior minister first denied they were taking place and then stated they were regular commercial flights, explaining that the migrants had bought tickets on their own initiative. When they were given a temporary permit at the end of a 72-hour retention period from the time of their arrival at the Canary Islands, those illegal immigrants can go wherever they wish, government officials explained.
Only on Dec. 11 did the government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez finally begin to acknowledge that it had been organizing some transfers, but just for the most vulnerable migrants. However, this version is refuted by the testimonies from police and airport officers, as well as flight crew members.
It appears that Sanchez’ far-left, pro-immigration government is taking up the same policies as the far-left, pro-immigration government of Alexis Tsipras in Greece in 2015, when that country made the immigration crisis far worse by organizing the systematic transfer of illegal immigrants from its islands to its mainland and then facilitating their travel farther north.
Sánchez has his own history of encouraging and facilitating illegal immigrants’ passage through Spain to France.
Migrants who have been transferred to mainland Spain are allowed to go freely wherever they want at a time when Spaniards are not permitted to travel between provinces and regions because of limitations linked to the pandemic. The Spanish government is thus trying to do away with a problem it contributed to with its pro-migrant policies from 2018, when Sánchez formed his first government.
However, the Spanish policy of ferrying migrants to the European mainland is likely to serve as another powerful incentive for many Africans to embark on the dangerous route to the Canary Islands — if there is a chance they can get to Europe, they will risk their lives.
Just as the leftist government of Giuseppe Conte in Rome allowed a Tunisian terrorist to travel unchallenged through its territory and kill innocent people in the southern French city of Nice last November, Madrid appears to shirking its responsibility towards its fellow EU countries. At this time, it remains unclear how many Islamic radicals there are among the young men who are being transferred to mainland Europe.
So why is the European Commission not reacting? In March, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson asked Greece to revoke its decision not to accept any asylum request on its territory when it was trying to fend off a massive assault of illegal immigrants on its borders with Turkey. Now, she refuses to condemn the Spanish policy of transferring illegal immigrants to the continent and allowing them to go unchecked in the Schengen Area.
Instead, the European Commission is keeping its pressure on Hungary, with the European Court of Justice ruling this week that Hungary, not Spain, broke EU law by unlawfully detaining migrants in its transit zones. The European Commission had brought the case to the ECJ even after such transit zones for asylum applicants were deemed lawful by the European Court of Human Rights last year.
Should Budapest fail to control its part of the external Schengen border and act like Madrid, it would undoubtedly face fewer problems with Brussels.