The most dangerous migration route has become the busiest this year. Since the beginning of this year, more than 5,000 refugees have arrived in the Canary Islands. Compared to last year, this is an increase of more than 600 percent, writes the Focus weekly. Experts warn that this is a sign of a new massive migration wave.
There are several reasons why this route, on which refugees have to travel 100 kilometers in stormy and dangerous waters of the Atlantic, has become so busy. Above all, it’s the price. A place in a rubber boat on this route costs around €800, while usually, it is around €2000.
“Another reason is the coronavirus pandemic, which restricted free movement, so there are significantly fewer smugglers on the usual routes,” said Bram Frouws of the Mixed Migration Centre, an independent research institute in Geneva.
In recent years, some European countries have concluded agreements with transit countries, such as Libya and Niger. These countries are trying to prevent migrants from reaching the North African coast. In return, Europe transfers significant sums of money to these countries.
However, according to Frouws, such agreements often only change migration routes. As an example, he pointed out the situation of Morocco and mainland Spain.
“When the number of migrants between Morocco and mainland Spain increased significantly, Spain transferred 30 million euros to Morocco,” Frouws said.
Morocco immediately began expelling migrants from areas in the north from which they were entering Spain. In the first half of 2020, the influx of migrants to the Spanish coast fell by more than 4,000. At the same time, the number of migrants heading to the Canary Islands increased.
“What we are currently witnessing is a harbinger of new massive migratory movements to Europe,” warns Matt Herbert of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
Herbert added that as a result of the numerous political crises in the Sahel, the territory in North Africa on the southern edge of the Sahara, more and more people are heading to Europe.
For example, more than 7,000 people have fled Tunisia since the beginning of the year. That is the highest number since the Arab Spring in 2011. In neighboring Libya, which has so far been the most important transit country for the so-called Mediterranean route, smugglers are now becoming migrants themselves.
Title image: Migrants wearing face masks sit on the deck of a police rescue boat as they arrive at the Arguineguin port in Gran Canaria island, Spain, after being rescued in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. More than 250 people are known to have died or gone missing on the Atlantic route so far this year. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)