Spain’s Lanzarote island declares ‘social emergency’ over influx of young migrants

Spain’s Lanzarote island declares ‘social emergency’ over influx of young migrants

Small island’s government says it is quickly running out of places to host unaccompanied foreign minors

By Alyssa McMurtry

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – The Spanish island of Lanzarote declared a “social emergency” Wednesday due to an influx of young migrants and a shelter system that is already overflowing.

Oswaldo Betancort, the president of the local government of Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands archipelago, signed the decree, citing forecasts that there could be a “record increase in the arrival of migrants from the African coast” in the coming weeks and months.

The emergency declaration aims to “facilitate and speed up decision making” to give “migrant children the most dignified conditions as possible” and “take extraordinary decisions in the face of an extraordinary situation.”

According to the local government, around 40 unaccompanied minors have landed on the shores of Lanzarote recently.

In all of 2023, the government was hosting 742 of these young migrants in specialized shelters.

However, last week, lawyers and the NGO the Samu Foundation denounced the “terrible condition” of one center for young migrants on the Atlantic island.

According to the legal filing on the center submitted to prosecutors and the ombudsman, the center is dirty, overcrowded and infested with insects and unsafe conditions. The young migrants are not even given bed sheets.

As for the food, the complaint says it is mostly hard bread and pasta without vegetables. And even that “sometimes arrives in poor condition, with hair or cockroaches.”

While discussing the emergency declaration, Marci Acuna, Lanzarote Councilor for Social Wellbeing and Inclusion, admitted that “all the resources used up until now are overwhelmed, and we do not see alternative options for housing these minors.”

The Canary Islands are expecting to receive around 70,000 migrants in the coming months, around 10% of whom are likely to be unaccompanied minors.

Currently, all of the islands host around 5,600 minors, but the government is calculating that the number could more than double to between 12,000 and 16,000 by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government is aiming to send more of the minors to different regions in peninsular Spain.

However, the far-right Vox party threatened last week to split with its coalition partner in several regional governments, the Popular Party, if it strikes a deal with Spain’s central government to accept these young migrants.

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