Spain tackles migration crisis by setting up central command

World Today

SPAIN-EU-MIGRANTSA man rescued at sea waits to be transferred at the harbour of Algeciras on July 30, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JORGE GUERRERO)

Spain has become the main port of entry for migrants from the Mediterranean. Now, the government made a new move to prevent some from entering, and better manage others who get through.

CGTN’s Al Goodman reports.

African migrants are getting into Spain by the thousands this summer, mainly by sea, in clandestine boats. Like these recent arrivals in the southern port of Tarifa, leaving a sports center that’s a makeshift migrant holding center.

They are also coming by land, scaling, and sometimes cutting their way through the fences at the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, on Morocco’s north coast. Spain has become a focal point this summer for migrant arrivals, outpacing Italy and Greece.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is trying to get control of the migrant issue that’s raising concern in Spain and across Europe.

“The government is creating a central police command for the operational coordination against illegal immigration at the border and in the Strait of Gibraltar”, said Sanchez.

The central command, with Spanish funding of $35 million dollars, aims to prevent migrant arrivals but also better coordinate the management of those who do make it onto Spanish soil.

Just last June, Sanchez, newly in power, ordered Spain to accept 629 migrants rescued aboard the Aquarius NGO ship after Italy and Malta denied the entry. As a socialist, Sanchez said that showed Spain’s humanitarian response to the migrant crisis.

But Spain’s conservative opposition leaders have criticized Sanchez, saying he sent the wrong signal – that Spain was wide open for migrants. One leader said Spain can’t handle millions of migrants. The actual number is closer to 22,000 migrants, not millions. But the rhetoric raises concerns that the Italian government’s far-right stance against migrants could gain support in Spain. And the European Union reacted this week, promising to release $64 million dollars in emergency Africa funds to help Morocco and Tunisia try to keep Sub-Saharan Africans from sailing for Spain.

“When migrant land on Tarifa or Algeciras beach, he’s not landing in Spain, he’s landing in Europe,” said Sanchez, “resources are needed to control the European borders, and talk to Morocco.”

Sanchez thanked the European Union for its response. Now, he and the Spanish government take a short summer holiday. But the migrants are expected to keep trying to get into Spain.