MADRID (AP) — Spanish authorities are planning to convert unused military barracks and installations into temporary shelters for migrants to deal with the rapid rise in the number of people arriving on the Canary Islands by boat, a government minister said Thursday.
José Luis Escrivá, minister of inclusion, social security and migration, told reporters that his ministry was working with military officials to evaluate the appropriateness of two barracks in the Madrid region and other installations in the southern cities of Seville and Cartagena.
“I believe at this moment we have to be ready in case (the shelters) are necessary,” Escrivá said.
Some 23,000 people have arrived on the Canary Islands by boat this year, compared to 13,000 for the same period last year, according to Spain's interior ministry.
Most of the boats arrived at El Hierro island, which has received several thousand migrants in recent weeks.
The route to reach the archipelago located off the northwest coast of Africa has claimed countless lives, with migrants traveling in small vessels unfit for long journeys across the open sea.
Escrivá said that some 5,000 people who arrived on the Canary Islands were transferred in recent weeks to the mainland to take pressure off social services on the archipelago.
The uptick in arrivals, which has also been seen in Italy in the Mediterranean, has led to criticism of Spain's central government by the right-wing opposition.
But Escrivá insisted that officials can handle the influx of people, saying it was relatively small compared to the number of Ukrainians who reached Spain after fleeing the Russian invasion.
“We have lots of experience with these situations,” the minister said. “We have integrated 200,000 Ukrainians. Compared to that, this is relatively small.”
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