Friday, 27 October 2023, 15:52
Half asleep but "happy" to arrive safe and sound in Spain, where they dream of "being able to live, study and work". These were the words of Hassan, a 27-year-old Moroccan, and Ismael, a 17-year-old Senegalese, who are part of the group of 240 migrants, all of them male, who have been moved from the Canary Islands by the government and temporarily housed in a hotel in El Morche, Torrox, on the eastern Costa del Sol.
Malaga Red Cross has said the centre where these people will be accommodated will remain open until 31 December and that this operation will run "while this emergency situation lasts", in reference to the large-scale arrival of migrants on the Canary Islands, filling up the facilities there.
Before being moved to the Costa del Sol this week, Moroccan Hassan had arrived on Lanzarote after a three-day, 860-kilometre crossing by boat from west Africa.
"When we were close to the coast and we could see the lights, we called Helena Maleno - the human rights activist - and they rescued us," explained the Moroccan, who said he has a degree in tourism and another in accounting. "I have risked my life because the salary I had in my country does not give me enough to live on, I am going to ask for humanitarian asylum," Hassan added.
According to Hassan, he has family in Spain, Canada and Belgium. "I hope they don't send me back to my country, I want to work in Spain, to be respected, to get ahead, and to be able to survive," said the young Moroccan, who studied Spanish for three years in his native country. Single and childless, Hassan admits that he was "very scared" during the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean after setting off in a dinghy from the town of Tan-Tan, in Western Sahara.
Young Ismael, from the Senegalese town of Kayar, came from even further away. He left his two sisters behind, with the aim of joining his father, who has been living and working in Murcia for more than a decade.
"My mother died five years ago in Senegal. I have just finished my basic education and I play basketball," the 17-year-old, who is 2.05 metres tall, said shyly. Nervous and dazed by the long journey in a cayuco boat, 1,400km to Tenerife, Ismael does not want his picture to appear in the newspaper.
"My brother is in Cadiz in a centre for minors, he arrived a fortnight ago," said the young Senegalese, who added that his dream is "to be able to continue studying in Spain and playing basketball".
Explaining the reasons that led him to embark on a small boat risking his life, Ismael confessed that a few weeks ago a friend of his died in the street as they were leaving a basketball training session when they passed through an area where there was a demonstration against the government.
"I know we have risked our lives, but the situation in my country is very bad because of the government; there are many demonstrations in the streets, and a lot of police," he said.
The government told SUR that people arriving in the Canaries are treated as all immigrant groups, such as Ukrainians and Syrians.
"First they receive medical assistance, then they go to the police and, after 72 hours in police custody, they go to our centres, which are open - they can come and go. They are looked after by qualified staff," they added.
The mayor of Torrox, Óscar Medina (PP), said the town hall was "prepared to help these migrants in whatever way possible", but criticised the government for taking all the credit when, he said, it was the Red Cross that had initially contacted the town hall about moving the migrants to the mainland.
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