Not a three hour tour
January 21, 2021 3:42 PM   Subscribe

With seasoned skill, the men hoist the blue-bottomed wooden boat atop a four-wheel drive vehicle that will take it from this inland hideaway to the Western Sahara shore. From there, the boat is meant to take 20 to 30 migrants into the Atlantic Ocean and across what the European Union’s border agency calls “the most dangerous migratory route in the world.”
posted by sammyo (4 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
That is a beautiful boat, with an elegant interior design. It must be outrageously stable to make a 300 mile open ocean crossing. The desperation must be intense.
posted by Oyéah at 4:24 PM on January 21

I live in the Canary Islands, and just a couple of days ago took a walk through Puerto de la Cruz, where a number of tourist resorts (now closed due to COVID) have been turned into temporary housing for the new arrivals. I have to jump into some meetings, but I plan to come back here a bit later to provide some context from the 'European side' of this story.
posted by jpziller at 1:47 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

The situation here in the Canary islands is complex.

As mentioned in the article, we've had record numbers of migrants this year. That has led to massive overcrowding in the ports, particularly in Gran Canaria. Thousands of people were sleeping on a concrete pier, and the government of the islands identified this (quite correctly) as a humanitarian issue.

The islands government is a short on money this year, because the Canary Islands' economy is primarily tourism-based, and the whole industry has been upset by COVID-19. That has sent the government of the islands to Madrid asking for money, but Madrid has been reluctant to support the islands, because they don't want the islands to get a reputation as an easy/comfortable way for people to enter the EU. Madrid is also making it very difficult for the migrants who have arrived here to travel to the mainland to go through the bureaucracy there.

Meanwhile, the optics of placing the new arrivals in empty resorts (all 7000 are currently housed in this way) is causing tension in communities here. When I was walking in Puerto the other day, every balcony on one of the seaside resorts had at least one migrant sitting looking *very* bored and playing with their phone. These resorts are right on the main waterfront walking street, and they're generaly marketed as 'luxury' destinations.

While the local Spanish population has some experience with and compassion for migrant arrivals, the fact that COVID has essentially destroyed the local economy is breeding resentment. Worse, though, are the reactions 'expat' retirement enclaves (primarily English and German retirees). Before leaving some of the English-speaking Facebook groups (as a 2020 self-preservation tactic) I was seeing open racism and calls to vigilantism.

I've contacted the local Red Cross to ask about volunteer opportunities, because, as mentioned in the article, most of the new arrivals are in need of immediate medical care, and there are large numbers of COVID cases arriving here on these boats. The Red Cross did not respond to my inquiries, and as I investigated further I was told that because of the ongoing tensions they are working only with people that they know and trust, so as not to give information about their programs to bad actors in the community.

Here is a recent article (in Spanish) with an interview with a Senegalese migrant that can give some more perspective
posted by jpziller at 2:47 AM on January 22 [14 favorites]

What an incredible effort for such a chancy crossing. Both the boat's construction, and the efforts to keep it hidden - burying something that size in sand and unearthing it, multiple times. jpziller, thank you for the additional information.
posted by mersen at 4:15 PM on January 23

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