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The Spanish prime minister’s migration journey

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Separating the destinies of Abdoul, a 16-year-old from Sierra Leone, and Moroccan Yassin Esadik, 23, is an abyss of two-and-a-half years. The former disembarked from the Aquarius rescue ship in Valencia in June, 2018. The red-carpet treatment rolled out in the port meant there were 600 journalists on site, humanitarian aid and a coordinated administration focused on accelerating the procedures to process the migrants’ arrival.

Two-and-a-half years later, at the end of October, Esadik arrived in the overcrowded Arguineguín dock in Gran Canaria, where migrant arrivals had been accumulating for 20 days. Sandwiches were handed out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there was a lack of water and hygiene, journalists were kept behind a barrier and an overwhelmed system meant that he was unlikely to be able to leave the island until he was deported. It’s not just time that separates the fate of these two young men; nor is it exactly an ideological shift. It is realpolitik.

In the case of Abdoul, a then-unknown humanitarian rescue ship gave Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez the opportunity to declare his intentions to the European Union as soon as he took power in June 2018. The Aquarius was the first ship to become embroiled in a humanitarian crisis due to the closed port strategy of the Italian interior minister at the time, Matteo Salvini. While Europe looked the other way, the vessel was left in limbo for eight days. Implicit in Sánchez’s gesture was the message that Spain could lead the approach of Europe’s southern states to migration, could manage the flows and control borders while respecting human rights. But reality soon chewed up that message and spat it out.

Another incident involving a ship that has long been forgotten showed how quickly Spain ditched this role. In late November 2018, the Alicante fishing boat Nuestra Madre Loreto was left in limbo for 10 days after rescuing 12 migrants off the coast of Libya. Once again, neither Italy nor Malta allowed it to dock, and Sanchez’s government, in contrast with its previous message, tried to resolve the crisis by forcing the ship to leave the migrants in what it considered the closest and safest port – Libya, a chaotic country, according to migration experts, where migrants are extorted and abused. The captain of Nuestra Madre Loreto, Pascual Durá, refused and set sail for the Spanish coast. The crisis was only resolved at the last minute when Malta allowed the boat to dock on the condition that the migrants were subsequently taken to Spain.

Since that incident, there has been a U-turn in Spain’s migration politics. The vast majority of the Aquarius migrants plus those rescued by the Catalan NGO ship Proactiva Open Arms arriving in Spain in 2018 have had their request for legal residency rejected; Spanish rescue boats have been forbidden to trawl the central Mediterranean and the Maritime Rescue service has also had its hands tied. For the time being, the coalition government has agreed not to stop immediate deportation, and the enclosure in Ceuta and Melilla is being maintained and is now being tried in the Canary Islands.

“Spanish migration strategy is more stable than it seems,” says Gemma Pinyol, director of the Instrategies think tank. “There are some changes in the narrative depending on who is in power, but the border control policies, which are the ones that continue to be imposed, haven’t changed that much. We need to take a good look and promote serious debate on migration. We can discuss which model is better or worse, but we must seek a comprehensive mobility policy.”

While Spain has been spared Europe’s migratory crises until recently, over the past two and a half years it has been left to face unprecedented situations practically alone. In 2018, irregular entries rocketed by more than 64,000 and, a year later, the number of asylum applications rose to 118,000, collapsing an already precarious system. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, the Canary Islands is bearing the brunt of the situation, leading to migrant macro-camps such as were set up in the Greek islands.

Thanks to the European Union and its interior ministers, the chance of Spain leading a migration approach of its own has dwindled. “From the Pyrenees down, Europe only cares about two words: secondary migrations,” says a member of the current administration, referring to the obsession with stopping the transit of migrants to the rest of Europe through Mediterranean countries.

In fact it is the demands of European countries to the north and east of the continent that have done much to curb Spain’s early initiative. “There has been a total rejection of what was originally proposed and a lack of leadership,” says a spokesman involved in national immigration policy. “There was a positive, serious, orderly approach; obviously not perfect, but, on paper at least, the line on immigration policy was clear. In practice, it turns out to be something else; you do what [Spain’s interior minister] Fernando Grande-Marlaska says.”

The new migration agreement currently being negotiated in Brussels rules out a solidarity-based distribution of immigrants and instead focuses on border controls, putting aside the debate on legal migration models and an adequate response to the demographic needs of an aging continent. “In Europe, the view of immigration is strictly about limiting and repressing it,” says political scientist Sami Naïr. “There is no prospective concept of what could be a great Mediterranean policy between the two shores, nor a true policy of cooperation. I have been advocating for years that limitation is necessary, but it has to run alongside proposals that offer stability to the populations of the countries of origin.”

Meanwhile, Spain still harbors a certain transformative impulse inspired by Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration José Luis Escrivá, who advocates attracting foreigners to the labor market legally as a way to save the welfare state and mitigate Spain’s the demographic decline. Escrivá is committed to making procedures more flexible, attracting talent and facilitating the inclusion of foreign minors. But the minister is more or less on his own and the impact of these initiatives is slight within the context of the great immigration conundrum. Now, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which has triggered unemployment, complicates policy further. Once again, it is realpolitik.

 

Read from source: https://english.elpais.com/spanish_news/2020-12-30/the-spanish-prime-ministers-migration-journey.html

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Spain reports first case of Omicron Covid variant

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thelocal– Spain said Monday it had detected its first case of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 in a man who had recently arrived from South Africa.

The 51-year-old was tested when he arrived at Madrid airport on Sunday via Amsterdam and was found to be positive, the regional government of Madrid said in a statement.

“The patient has light symptoms and is undergoing quarantine,” the statement added.

Earlier on Monday, Madrid’s Gregorio Maranon Hospital tweeted that its microbiology service had detected the first case of the Omicron variant in Spain, without giving further details.

The World Health Organization has listed Omicron as a “variant of concern” and countries around the world are now restricting travel from southern Africa, where the new strain was first detected, and taking other new precautions.

The WHO says it could take several weeks to know if there are significant changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments.

Several other European nations, including Belgium, Britain and Germany have detected cases of the variant, which was first detected in South Africa.

On Friday, Spanish authorities suspended flights with South Africa and Botswana in reaction to growing concerns over the new variant which was first detected in the South African city of Pretoria.

The following day, Spain’s Health Ministry put Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe on its new high-risk list.

Travellers who are able to reach Spain from these nations will have to present a negative PCR or NAAT test taken within 72 hours prior to travel to Spain even if they are fully vaccinated.

They must also go into quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Spain, or for their whole stay if it’s under 10 days.

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Spanish researchers pave way for fair play in global Covid testing and research

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thelocal– The World Health Organisation described the accord as the first transparent, global, non-exclusive licence for a Covid-19 health tool, that should help towards correcting the “devastating global inequity” in access.

The deal brings the Spanish National Research Council CSIC together with the global Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) knowledge-sharing platform.

“The aim of the licence is to facilitate the rapid manufacture and commercialisation of CSIC’s Covid-19 serological test worldwide,” the WHO said.

The test effectively detects anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies developed in response to either a Covid-19 infection or a vaccine.

CSIC, one of Europe’s main public research institutions, will provide the MPP or prospective licencees with know-how and training.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the licence, which will be royalty-free for low and middle-income countries, as “the kind of open and transparent licence we need to move the needle on access during and after the pandemic”.

He added: “I urge developers of Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to follow this example and turn the tide… on the devastating
global inequity this pandemic has spotlighted.”

C-TAP was founded in May 2020 as a platform for developers of Covid-19 tools to share knowledge and intellectual property.

Set up during the scramble for Covid vaccines and treatments, the health technology repository was first suggested by Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.

The information pool was intended as a voluntary global bank for IP and open-sourced data as part of a common front against the new coronavirus.

However, as it turned out, rival pharmaceutical companies have largely kept their findings to themselves rather than sharing them as global public goods.

Tuesday’s deal “shows that solidarity and equitable access can be achieved”, said Alvarado.

CSIC president Rosa Menéndez said she hoped the move would serve as an example for other research organisations.

‘Preposterous’ tests hoarding

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the test could quantify three different types of antibodies — and crucially, differentiate vaccinated people from those with natural Covid infection.

“This feature will become very important for measuring the number of Covid-19 cases in countries and the impact of control measures,” it said.

In welcoming CSIC’s move, MSF diagnostics adviser Stijn Deborggraeve said it was “preposterous” in a global pandemic that tests were being monopolised by “a handful of privileged people and countries”.

The Geneva-based MPP is a UN-backed international organisation that works to facilitate the development of medicines for low- and middle-income nations.

The antibody test licensing accord is the third Covid-related deal that the global pool has struck in a month.

Last week, the MPP reached an agreement with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to make its prospective antiviral Covid-19 pill available more cheaply in 95 low- and middle-income countries via sub-licensing to generic drug manufacturers.

The MPP signed a similar deal last month with Pfizer’s US rival Merck for its prospective oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir.

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In 2 days, 10 migrants die trying to reach Spanish islands

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euronews– Spanish rescuers say 10 migrants have died while trying to reach the Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

Rescuers said Monday they found a migrant boat drifting 200 kilometres from the Canary Islands and saved 40 people but recovered two bodies.

The boat is believed to have departed from Dakhla on the coast of Western Sahara five days ago. A Spanish rescue plane spotted it drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. At least five people had to be evacuated by helicopter to a hospital on the island of Gran Canaria for urgent medical attention. The other survivors were being brought back to the port of Arguineguín on the same island in one of Spain’s rescue ships.

Some 900 migrants have reportedly died or gone missing on the dangerous migration route from West Africa to the Canary Islands, according to the U.N. migration agency. Experts say even that number is an undercount as many migrant ships sink with no confirmation.

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