The collective Red Canaria for the Rights of Migrants has warned that the coming calm sea and good weather over the Atlantic Ocean could lead to a new uptick in the arrival of boats to the Canary Islands from next October.
Last year, according to the collective, about 60% of the 23,023 people who arrived in the Canary Islands by boat did so during October, in which 5,328 people reached the coast. The 31 days of October 2020 were the most intense of the year in boat arrivals, only comparable with the data recorded in the cayucos crisis of 2006 and 2007, according to the data provided by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.
With an average of 144 migrants per day, arrivals recorded in the first two weeks of October 2020 put the islands’ reception resources on edge.
The figures are of considerable concern to humanitarian organizations and public institutions. Thus, during the first eight months of 2021, the figure for the same period of 2020 has been exceeded, with 7,292 people arriving onboard boats and cayucos until August 1.
The ‘calm of the sea.’
The uptick experienced in the so-called Canarian Route is not a coincidence. In October, the islands enter a period of ‘calm of the sea’ where the usual meteorological elements of the Canary Islands, such as the Saharan advection, are inactive, making this area of the Atlantic a calm sea ideal for navigation.
The source of the trade winds, the anticyclone of the Azores, thrives its strength in this period or varies its position in the North Atlantic, facilitating meteorological stability.
In addition, in this period, the ‘upwelling’ effect of the ascent of deep cold waters decreases by combining a whole series of elements in a phenomenon that usually lasts a few weeks. The archipelago changes its windy gusts for a breeze or even absence of winds, which align with a temperature in the water quite pleasant since the sea has received the heat of July and August and has not yet had time to cool as it happens in the winter.
This balance of temperatures in the sea and the continent is key, and other factors such as clean skies facilitate navigation.
The collective Red Canaria for the Rights of Migrants assures that the islands are not prepared for the new uptick in the arrival of boats that is about to fall, since as they denounce in a statement, little has been done to prepare the infrastructures, agreements, or resources for a dignified reception.
In October 2020, the authorities set off their alarms when they spotted large boats again on the Canarian Route. These cayucos, mainly used for artisanal fishing in Senegal, the Gambia, and Guinea Bissau and very characteristic for their multicolored color, alerted to the reactivation of the departures from this coast.
Throughout 2021, the Senegalese have been one of the most frequent nationalities on board the boats due to the closure of fishing in the country. The fisheries agreement with the European Union and other powers has led to the plundering of Senegal’s waters and, therefore, a lack of fish, a shortage of jobs, and more poverty, according to humanitarian organizations working in the area and various civil entities in the African country.
The crisis in the fisheries sector, also fuelled by mismanagement, lack of vigilance, the explosion in the number of boats fishing in its waters, the arrival of large vessels engaged in industrial fishing and foreign vessels – mainly tuna vessels – have been some of the elements that have pushed the Senegalese to migrate to Europe.
Young people, faced with the predicament of lack of jobs, hunger, misery, and lack of opportunities, are increasingly trying to cross the deadliest route.
As a result of the crisis in the traditional fisheries sector of Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau, there has been a marked increase in the number of immigrants who have at some point worked in the fisheries sector.
Thus, while in the previous boat crisis (2006-2007), the number of migrants by trade as fishers was minimal, they are now the majority, according to the Senegalese Observatory of Migration.