Migrants react upon arrival to Arguineguin's port, in Gran Canaria, Canary islands, Spain, 02 January 2024. EPA-EFE/Angel Medina G


Irregular migrant arrivals almost doubled in Spain in 2023


Around 57,000 migrants entered Spain irregularly last year, almost double the 2022 number as arrivals on the Canary Islands in fragile boats from West Africa surged to record levels, official data showed on Wednesday.

The Spanish government last year intensified its contacts with authorities in countries such as Senegal and Mauritania to try to reverse the trend. Spain also had to create additional emergency accommodation for migrants in military barracks, hotels and hostels across the country.

A total of 56,852 migrants illegally entered Spain by land or sea in 2023, an 82 per cent year-on-year increase and the highest number since 2018, when 64,298 arrivals were registered, Interior Ministry data showed.

The Canary Islands accounted for the bulk of the arrivals, 39,910 – up 154 per cent from a year earlier and surpassing the archipelago’s previous record of 2006 when 31,678 people arrived.

The flow of migrants has continued at the start of 2024. Regional emergency services reported on Monday that 287 migrants had arrived on five islands in six dinghy boats.

Migrations Minister Elma Saiz on Tuesday visited the archipelago to meet authorities and send the message, she said, that they are “not alone” in dealing with the influx.

Saiz praised the European Union‘s new migration deal, reached in December, that seeks to share out the cost and work of hosting migrants more evenly and to limit the numbers of people coming in.

The seven islands lying around 100 kilometres off Africa’s northwestern coast have become the main destination for migrants from Senegal and other African countries trying to reach Spain, seeking a better life, or fleeing conflict.