Spain’s Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, today denied that the country’s facilities for rescuing and housing illegal immigrants who arrive by boat are at breaking point and insisted that the flow of migrants is “a European problem requiring a European solution”.
Grande-Marlaska was talking to the press in Algeciras (Cadiz), where he went to oversee the rescue and housing of the hundreds of immigrants who have arrived on the Cadiz coastline over the past few days.
Maritime Rescue services rescued 334 people from 17 boats in the Straits of Gibraltar and the Alborán Sea on Saturday, and have taken them to the ports of Tarifa (Cadiz) and Motril (Granada), where they have been cared for in refugee centres.
A further four immigrants – one of them a minor – arrived on Los Arenales del Sol beach, between Elche and Santa Pola in Alicante province, according to Guardia Civil sources.
In Andalucía, the Centre for Maritime Rescue in Tarifa has coordinated the rescue of 283 people from 15 boats, and the Almería service picked up the occupants of another two boats in the Alborán Sea, adding to the thousand or so rescued in the Straits of Gibraltar on Friday.
The massive influx led to authorities having to make a warehouse available to house the 422 Maghrebi and sub-Saharan immigrants waiting to be transferred to the maritime port of Tarifa, where they were finally sent by bus on Saturday night.
A further 150 people who had spent two nights sleeping on board one of the rescue boats moored in the port of Algeciras, were eventually taken to the Andrés Mateo sports centre in the town’s El Saladillo neighbourhood.
The Interior Minister blamed the former PP minister for the current migratory problems, saying “it is not something that has just been sprung upon us” and, in face of the ongoing issues, “there has been very little forward planning by the previous government”.
Grande-Marlaska pointed out that the 8,100 immigrants who arrived in makeshift boats last year represented a 170% rise on 2016 figures, and that “people knew it was going to increase in a substantial” way in 2018.
He also confirmed the imminent opening of a Temporary Foreigners’ Refugee Centre which the government is setting up in Campamento, in San Roque (Cadiz). It will start taking refugees on a gradual basis from August 1st and assured the public that they were working “24 hours a day” to adapt the centre so that it can house over 600 people.
The minister denied that the current arrival of immigrant boats was too much for the rescue centres to deal with and gave assurances that there was “no immigration siege” saying “the situation is controllable and we have it under control”.
In his opinion, rescuers are responding to an “exceptional” situation and are taking “all the right measures to ensure that this situation lasts the least possible time”. He also mentioned the €30 million approved by the Council of Ministers on Friday for migratory policies.
With respect to the stance taken by the Moroccan government, he said their behaviour was “totally reasonable” and pointed out that Morocco “is also suffering huge migratory influxes”.
When asked about the EU’s response to the problem, the minister insisted that the flow of migrants “is a European problem that requires a European solution” adding that “new projects are underway to protect borders and there will soon be a decision on the number of funds to be made available to tackle migratory issues directly”.