Spain struggling to keep up with migrant arrivals

World Today

The UN says Spain has had about 18,000 migrant arrivals this year, far more than Italy or Greece. But the busy summer season has already exposed gaps in Spain’s migrant-reception infrastructure – as the country faces a very challenging year. CGTN’s Al Goodman reports.

Follow Al Goodman on Twitter @algoodmanspain

The latest example of the African migrant challenge for Spain is in the southern port of Tarifa.

The town’s multi-million dollar sports complex is now a makeshift holding center. Under police guard, nearly 700 sub-Saharan Africans stayed there recently, hoping for a better future in Europe. Right next door, the town is building its own future.

With the surge in arrivals of migrants from Africa into Spain this summer, towns – both those closest to Africa and as far away as Barcelona – are having to improvise solutions on where to hold them.

Spain made international news in June by accepting 629 migrants, rescued from the Mediterranean, after Italy and Malta denied them entry. More than 2,000 aid workers, translators and lawyers awaited them at the eastern port of Valencia.

But Gabriel Delgado, a Roman Catholic priest who’s helped migrants for decades, said that unlike well-organized Valencia, Spain’s southern ports near Africa struggle with ad-hoc responses.

“Migrants have come in clandestine boats for 30 years,” he explained, “but there wasn’t a decision, until now, to build a full-service reception center in this area.”

The Spanish government says it’s considering such a place, instead of sports arenas, especially with migrant arrivals up 80 percent this year.

But the priest sees a troubling undercurrent with the latest surge.

“Europe now is moving toward a more worrisome globalization – the globalization of rejection and xenophobia,” Delgado said.

Yet there was a respite for 13 migrants still at the sports center. They suddenly emerged, to go to lodging of charities that want to help them get a foothold in Europe. Still, Tarifa’s sports center, and others nearby, remain ready for new migrant arrivals, until Spain fashions a better accommodation solution.