1708081612 Fernando Clavijo The government must be at least as

Fernando Clavijo: “The government must be at least as flexible in the distribution of unaccompanied minors as in the amnesty” | Spain

The Canary Islands accounted for 70% of irregular migrant arrivals in 2023, a figure that broke the record set by the 2006 Cayucos crisis and exceeded the previous year's figures by 155%. In January 2024, arrivals even recorded another sharp increase (7,270 people, 12 times more than in January 2023). This incessant movement has left about 5,700 unaccompanied minors on the islands, under the guardianship of a Canarian executive that does not stop asking for help from the central government and the European Union. “Solidarity has failed,” says the President of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo Batlle (San Cristóbal de La Laguna, 52 years old), who calls for a rapid implementation on the peninsula, for which he has even prepared a proposal to amend the law, thanks to the Investiture pacts are expected to move forward. “We will not admit non-compliance,” he warns. The Secretary General of the Canary Islands Coalition defends these agreements with both the PSOE and the PP in a context marked by polarization.

Questions. What is the current status of the migration phenomenon in the Canary Islands?

Answer. The situation is very complex. In January we had the worst month in history. Several circumstances have arisen, such as the fact that Senegal is currently experiencing significant political conflict and the elections have been postponed again. And the pressure in Mauritania is brutal. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said around 300,000 people were waiting to jump to the Canary Islands. Most of the incoming adults are identified and referred [a la península], because the Canary Islands only have a capacity of around 7,000 places. The big problem is the minors, currently there are around 5,500. Solidarity has failed. This attempt to let communities regulate themselves through the distribution of these boys and girls has failed. Of the 347 who had to leave in October last year [de Canarias] nobody did it. Only four municipalities have signed the agreement: Galicia, Madrid, Cantabria and Aragon.

Q What scenario could be the perfect storm for immigration issues this year?

R. If the government does not have a clear proposal for a change in the law with a roadmap before March 31, as promised, it will have to be finalized in the first half of this year for the distribution of unaccompanied minors [en la península]The situation in the Canary Islands could be catastrophic.

Q And as for the number of arrivals?

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R. Frankly, the number of arrivals will not depend on the government. Europe will not make any decisive decisions in the European elections until June 9th. We have to wait for the formation of the European Parliament and the election of the bodies… In 2024, the European Union will do little more than what Ursula von der Leyen did. Among other things, the government lacks the capacity because in order to use Frontex in Morocco, Mauritania or Senegal, the countries must accept and sign it. Something they are not working on at the moment. Then it is a matter of managing and managing the newcomers more or less conscientiously, ensuring that there are fewer departures and redirecting them.

Q Did you feel abandoned by Spain and the EU?

R. We end 2023 with almost 40,000 [migrantes irregulares] and if the January trend continues, we can end 2024 with 70,000. We recognized that this situation could arise. It started with the refusal of some ministries, unaware of the flood that could come upon us, without having a single order, which we finally have with the minister [Ángel Víctor] Towers [de Política Territorial]. I had many differences with the minister [José Luis] Write [responsable de Migraciones en la anterior legislatura], but it provided us with resources and improved the centers. Other ministries have not done this. The gap remains for unaccompanied minors. We cannot guarantee the rights of these boys and girls. You have to teach them the language, educate them, give them a life project.

Q How many unaccompanied minors can be accommodated in the Canary Islands?

R. We cannot set a percentage. The United States cares for 11,700 unaccompanied minors out of a population of 300 million. In the Canary Islands, with 2.2 million inhabitants, there are 5,500. We must accept what is ours. And I never like to talk about money because the extreme right is given room for demagoguery there, but the resources that the Spanish government provides for unaccompanied minors do not reach 20% of their costs. . The Canary Islands population is an example of solidarity, commitment and resistance. But everything has a limit.

Q Do you miss the solidarity of the Autonomous Communities?

R. I believe that this must be ordered by the government of Spain and Europe, which allocates resources for this.

Q And set some percentages for this solidarity?

R. There must be objective criteria according to which the rights of the minor take precedence. The funds are provided by citizens from their taxes paid by the Spanish government and by the autonomous communities. We will agree to this, but first we must guarantee the rights of children.

Fernando Clavijo, during the interview at the EL PAÍS headquarters on the 13th in Madrid. Fernando Clavijo, during the interview at the EL PAÍS headquarters on the 13th in Madrid. Alex Onciu

Q Aren't you worried about the obstacles posed by the PP and Vox coalition governments?

R. I don't share the mindset of those who want to use this as a political weapon or who don't care about children's rights. We are providing the necessary resources and have even made the legislative changes that Congress needs to implement. The government must do its job, and those who want to make different speeches later, those who want to vote against it, object and then accept it with their conscience.

Q How important is this issue on the Canary Islands' agenda?

R. It weighs a lot. It is one of the vital issues for us. We will not admit non-compliance. And I know that the Spanish government wants to comply with this, because various ministers who have visited us have expressed this. I ask you to be at least as flexible in your processing as you were with the amnesty. The same.

Q 83% of the more than 7,000 people who reached the Canary Islands in January left Mauritania. Pedro Sánchez and Ursula von der Leyen visited Nouakchott last week and pledged more than 500 million to develop the country and stop the cayucos in the Canary Islands. Do you think it is possible to stop migration with such an agreement?

R. Anything that does not promote economic development in Africa will perpetuate this situation. The wealth gap between the Europe-Africa border is 10 to 1. In other words, the average GDP per capita in Africa is ten times lower than that in Europe. I don't know the terms of the agreement, but it must be linked to economic development policy. If not, we install a patch. We support the deployment of Frontex on the African coast and that this deployment brings with it a development policy. Europe must be aware of its responsibility towards the African continent. If not, in the end there will be no wall to contain those who have only death and misery behind them.

Q The Canary Islands coalition voted for the inauguration of Alberto Núñez Feijóo and the inauguration of Pedro Sánchez.

R. We have put the general interest of the Canary Islands first. The investitures are of little importance to us, what matters to us is the legislature and the setting of a Canarian agenda. Anyone who gets involved on the Canary Islands has our support. We are neither on one side nor on the other, nor do we want to be.

Q Spanish politics is bloc-oriented, no other party has done the same.

R. There has never been an absolute majority in the Canary Islands; we have always been used to all political forces being in charge. I respect all my political opponents. That our position is not the usual one? That has to change, Canarian exceptionalism should be given greater consideration in Madrid. Because it makes no sense for us to continue in this dynamic. This is just bad for the citizens.

Q They govern with the PP. Has the fact that she supported Sánchez's inauguration or voted for his decrees affected your relationship with your partner?

R. We have signed an agreement to govern the Canary Islands with an electoral program. We told both the PP and the PSOE that anyone who joins the Canary Islands agenda has our vote. We made progress, we were transparent and coherent. There may be those who wish we had acted differently. But we are not here to please one or the other.

Q Do you understand the duplicity of the PP, ready to consider a conditional pardon for Puigdemont in a reconciliation plan for Catalonia?

R. I don't understand it and can't understand it. I also don't know the context of what I've read in the media, and it happens that, as with everything, in the end there is never gray or chiaroscuro, but everything is black and white. I have great respect for the strategies of individual political parties and never judge their performance.

Q The PP admits that it has analyzed the amnesty for 24 hours and that it would even be difficult to accuse Puigdemont of a terrorist crime.

R. If they think that… What we say in private, we keep for public. In the Petitions Committee we cannot say anything that cannot be published. We understand that the amnesty does not apply. This is not a general interest, but rather a specific interest in receiving support for investment or having a stable government. A particular interest cannot subordinate everything and confuse the powers of the state. This is nonsense.

Q What did you think when you heard Feijóo defend the decision of the list with the most votes? The PSOE won the elections in the Canary Islands on March 28th.

R. Whoever articulates the supports rules. We won the elections in the Canary Islands in many institutions, went to the opposition and lost them on other occasions like this [las últimas autonómicas], and we were able to govern because we formed a majority. If we want to change the rules, we change them, but you don't want to change them in the middle of the game because it suits you more or less.

Q He said that the Canary Islands coalition would be key to the legislative period. In the Senate you voted for the goals of budget stability and national debt. Do you understand the PP's vote against the spending cap?

R. I can understand it from a strategic point of view, everyone does the resistance as they see fit, but from a rational point of view I don't understand it. Each opposition has its own style, there is the worse the better, and there is the opposition that is tough and demanding but where I cannot vote against something that is good for the Canary Islands. Ultimately, it will have an impact on all autonomous communities, including those governed by the PP.

Q The government warns that fiscal conditions for the autonomous communities will worsen if the Senate lowers the spending cap again.

R. Maybe the government needs to sit down with the opposition leader and negotiate. May it be the fault of one or the other… The blame lies with both, perhaps the two major parties would have to sit down together to negotiate the general state budgets.

Fernando Clavijo, on Tuesday February 13th in the editorial office of EL PAÍSFernando Clavijo, on Tuesday February 13th in the editorial office of EL PAÍ SAlex Onciu

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