Spain’s Migration Management Capabilities Under Self-Inflicted Pressure

Migrants arriving on the Spanish Canary Islands in 2004 (Photo: Sara Prestianni /

Over 56,000 undocumented immigrants entered Spain last year, according to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, an 82% increase from the 31,000 reported in 2022.

Additionally, it turned out that last year was the deadliest yet for migrants attempting to enter Spain. Approximately “6,618 people lost their lives at the Euro-African Western Border, including 363 women and 384 children” in 2023, according to Spanish humanitarian organization Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders).

Destination: Canary Islands. But Then…?

The majority of arrivals try to enter Spain through one of its overseas territories, avoiding the country’s mainland entirely.

One of the most well-liked locations for potential asylum seekers is the Canary Islands. In 2023, 53,000 migrants are thought to have arrived on the islands, many of them were minors traveling alone.

While NGOs demand more humanitarian aid, the Spanish National Police and the Civil Guard demand more funding to protect the country’s borders. Some are urging the government to work harder at guarding the nation’s borders.

Since 2018, the socialist/far-left coalition that rules Spain has ostensibly supported migration, but it has actively worked to “redirect” the growing flow of African migrants to nearby nations.

The liberal government of Gran Canaria, which is near the coast of North Africa, is failing to adequately control the increasing migratory pressure there. As a result, migrants are frequently transferred under the cover of night to other towns without the consent of the local population.

The administration of the Canary Islands is already facing a decline in tourism and a deterioration in public health and safety, on top of the usual pressures (social, health, and law enforcement). The conservative head of Gran Canaria has frequently criticized the liberal immigration policies of the Spanish government.

Collaboration with Frontex: An Additional Source of Challenges

The inability or unwillingness of Spanish law enforcement agencies to effectively collaborate with the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (FRONTEX) experts further exacerbates the migration situation.

Prior to this, Frontex’s involvement in cooperative operations against irregular migration in the Mediterranean, the Alboran Sea, and the Canary Islands was halted on January 24 due to Spain’s refusal to accept the operational plan for the EU border control agency for 2024. On January 29, the 2024 agreement between Spain and Frontex was abruptly extended.

The only nation in the EU to sign the Frontex agreement after the deadline was Spain. Spanish Ministry of Interior sources told the daily newspaper El Pais that the nation was worried about “losing ownership of its responsibility” for migrant data.


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