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‘The Canary Islands can be the voice of Africa in Europe’

“Illegal immigration in the Canary Islands is a matter of concern to us all, and it is not a short-lived phenomenon. It is there to stay”, declared Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar (Spain, SOC), head of the Spanish delegation to PACE, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria today at the opening of the meeting held by the Assembly’s Migration Committee in the capital of the archipelago.

Inés Rojas, member of the Canary Islands government responsible for social affairs, said that “the Canary Islands can be the voice of Africa in Europe. We must stop talking about Africa and start talking with Africa”. Ms Rojas described the new face of illegal immigration: “Increasingly, we are faced with boats crammed full of children. Over 6 000 children and young people have landed on our coasts since 1999. Most of them came in makeshift boats with just one adult to accompany them.”

José Miguel Garcia, President of the Gran Canaria Council, called for improved living conditions in illegal immigrants’ countries of origin. “The 21st century could be Africa’s century. We must do everything possible to improve the living conditions of its inhabitants.”

“We are faced with two realities: on the one hand, the figures, and on the other, the human tragedies. But these two realities are in fact one,” said Corien Jonker, Chair of the PACE Migration Committee. “I welcome the fact that the Spanish Chair of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has put migration right at the top of its agenda. We must all join together in finding answers.”