Hundreds of migrants stranded in Spain’s ‘new Lampedusa’

Almost 400 stranded migrants are sleeping on the ground in makeshift camps as Spanish officials struggle to cope with influx in town that mayor warned is turning into ‘the new Lampedusa’

  • Algeciras mayor likened port to Italian island Lampedusa – a reception centre for migrants heading to Europe 
  • Pictures show migrants sleeping on the ground or in camps in Algeciras as it emerged 400 are stuck in town
  • Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell says Europe needs ‘new blood’ to compensate for its low birth rate
  • Socialist government is planning to set up £26million fund to help process fresh arrivals from Africa

Around 400 migrants are sleeping on the ground in makeshift camps in a Spanish town as officials struggle to cope with the new arrivals, it has emerged.

Algeciras mayor José Ignacio Landaluce has described the southern port as ‘the new Lampedusa’ – an Italian island which has become a reception centre for huge numbers of migrants heading into Europe.

Pictures show some of the hundreds of refugees who arrived over the weekend still waiting at the docks today. Many have been forced to sleep on pavements, sheltering from the sun under blankets, while others can be seen camping inside rescue boats amid claims there are not enough officials to deal with the influx.

But Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell yesterday denied the country was experiencing ‘mass’ immigration and said Europe needed ‘new blood’ to compensate for a low birth rate. The socialist government is now aiming to invest 30 million euros (£26million) in an emergency plan to manage its new status as the main destination for seaborne migration from Africa.

Almost 400 migrants are stuck in a Spanish town that a mayor warned was at the centre of a new refugee crisis, it has emerged. A father holds his child today as he waits at Algeciras in the country’s south

José Ignacio Landaluce last week said Algeciras (pictured today) was becoming ‘the new Lampedusa’ – an Italian island which has become a reception centre for huge numbers of migrants heading into Europe

Pictures have emerged today of refugees who arrived over the weekend waiting in the southern port as it emerged that about 400 are stranded in makeshift camps, with Spanish authorities unable to cope with the number of arrivals

The mayor of Algeciras said his town is at the center of a ‘new migrant crisis’ as he dealt with hundreds of new arrivals, while the nearby town of Tarifa saw another wave of migrants landing on Friday

‘We’re trivialising the word ‘mass’,’ Borrell told reporters after talks in Madrid with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.

Close to 21,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea since the beginning of the year and 304 died in the attempt, the International Organization for Migration says.

The Libya-Italy Mediterranean route, which was the main one until recently, has dwindled by 80 percent while Spain has now become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Europe.


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Migrants are also reaching Spain by land, with 602 managing to scramble over the double barrier between Morocco and the Spanish territory of Ceuta in North Africa last Thursday, throwing caustic quicklime, excrement and stones onto police below.

Borrell recognised that ‘this shocks public opinion and the disorderly nature of immigration produces fear.’

But he said it was all relative, and ‘600 people is not massive compared to 1.3 million’ Syrian refugees currently in Jordan.

‘We’re talking about 20,000 (migrants) so far this year for a country of more than 40 million inhabitants,’ the Socialist minister said.

Close to 21,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea since the beginning of the year and 304 died in the attempt, the International Organization for Migration says.

The Libya-Italy Mediterranean route, which was the main one until recently, has dwindled by 80 percent while Spain has now become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Europe

Migrants are also reaching Spain by land, with 602 managing to scramble over the double barrier between Morocco and the Spanish territory of Ceuta in North Africa last Thursday, throwing caustic quicklime, excrement and stones onto police below

‘That’s not mass migration.’

Borrell also said the arrivals were under control, even if NGOs are warning that many migrant reception centres in Spain are saturated. He suggested this could even help Europe, where many countries have a low birth rate.

‘Europe’s demographic evolution shows that unless we want to gradually turn into an ageing continent, we need new blood, and it doesn’t look like this new blood is coming from our capacity to procreate.’

In Algeciras, migrants have been seen sleeping outdoors on beds of flattened cardboard boxes amid reports some are surviving on just milk and a biscuit for breakfast and juice and a sandwich for dinner. Others shelter froimm the sun under Red Cross blankets tied to fences and road barriers. 

Just since Friday more than 1,500 migrants have landed in the southern province of Cadiz in Andalucia, with the majority of the new arrivals funnelling through Algeciras.

Dozens of migrants were filmed landing on a beach at Tarifa near Algeciras on Saturday before sprinting into woodland as stunned sunbathers – some of them naked – looked on, in videos that went viral on social media. 

With police stations and makeshift emergency shelters set up in sports centres in Cadiz full, many rescued migrants have been forced to sleep inside an orange rescue boat docked in the port of Algeciras, or on the pavement beside it.

Police and charities that work with migrants say the surge in arrivals is exposing Spain’s response as unplanned, underfunded and understaffed

With police stations and makeshift emergency shelters set up in sports centres in Cadiz full, many rescued migrants have been forced to sleep inside an orange rescue boat docked in the port of Algeciras, or on the pavement beside it

The authorities have not had not enough blankets, mattresses and even food for the migrants who arrived in recent days, said Ana Rosado, an activist with the Andalusian Pro-Human Rights Association (APDHA) which provides aid to the new arrivals

During a fact-finding visit to Algeciras on Saturday, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska denied there was a ‘collapse’ in the system to receive migrants, saying the situation is ‘absolutely under control and controllable’.

But police and charities that work with migrants say the surge in arrivals is exposing Spain’s response as unplanned, underfunded and understaffed.

‘The number of migrant arrivals is very significant, as is the lack of means to deal with it,’ the representative of the Cadiz branch of the United Police Union (SUP), Carmen Velayos, told AFP.

There are not enough officers to process migrants within 72 hours of their arrival as required by law, even though agents have been pulled from other tasks or in some cases worked every day for the past month, she added.

In a sign that police are struggling to control the situation, 62 migrants escaped on Sunday from a warehouse which has been turned into a temporary shelter in the port of Barbate in Cadiz. 

The authorities have not had not enough blankets, mattresses and even food for the migrants who arrived in recent days, said Ana Rosado, an activist with the Andalusian Pro-Human Rights Association (APDHA) which provides aid to the new arrivals.

In some cases officials have asked local residents to donate water and basic food items for them, she added.

‘They are completely overwhelmed,’ Rosado said. 

Migration has become a political issue in Spain since Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez took office in June and promptly agreed to accept two ship loads of asylum seekers denied entry by Italy

During two months in office, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has asserted his liberal credentials by offering to receive hundreds of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, as the European Union struggles to agree on how to handle them

Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell yesterday denied the country was experiencing ‘mass’ immigration and said Europe needed ‘new blood’ to compensate for a low birth rate

The Spanish government is aiming to invest 30 million euros (£26million) in an emergency plan to manage its new status as the main destination for seaborne migration from Africa

During two months in office, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has asserted his liberal credentials by offering to receive hundreds of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, as the European Union struggles to agree on how to handle them.

A proposed £26million fund will go towards covering the initial costs of managing arrivals on the beaches, from staff to hand out blankets and food to managing the process of identification and determining whether people qualify for asylum, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s office said.

On Monday, Madrid opened a temporary reception centre in the Andalusia region which is separated from Africa by the Strait of Gibraltar, just nine miles at its narrowest point.

Visiting the centre, which has space for up to 700 people to stay around 4-5 days each once their identities have been processed by police, Labour Minister Magdalena Valerio said immigration was an ‘unstoppable phenomenon’.

A group of migrants sprint away up the beach near Tarifa as they flee border control authorities on the Spanish coast

‘Migration policy needs to be shared, all European countries need to get involved,’ she added.

Sanchez’s office said the previous government left Spain unprepared for the influx, which has totalled almost 24,000 so far this year, according to the United Nations refugee agency, almost as many as made the trip throughout all of 2017.

Meanwhile, Italy, long a regional flashpoint for boat migration, has seen almost 18,300 arrivals, and its anti-system government has barred migrant rescue ships from docking.

Sanchez’s political opponents including the hard-line new leader of the conservative People’s Party (PP) have warned against creating a ‘pull factor’ for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

‘Rather than a pull factor, we could talk about a lack of foresight in the last years of the previous government, which did nothing about increasing arrivals, and obliged this government to take urgent steps,’ Sanchez’s office said in a statement. 

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