Migrants sent to Balearics face backlash from local government

MADRID – Migrants moving to the Balearic Islands are facing a backlash after local politicians demanded that no more should be sent to the popular holiday destination amid a growing national crisis.

Most asylum seekers arrive in Spain after a perilous journey in small boats from West Africa to the Canary Islands, and are then moved swiftly to camps on the mainland or the Balearic Islands.

The number of migrants entering Spain on small boats rose 308 per cent in January, with most arriving in the Canary Islands, which is now grappling with a full-blown crisis. From the start of the year until 15 March, 12,393 migrants reached the holiday hotspot, an increase of 469 per cent from 2023, when 2,178 arrived.

Since the start of the year, 463 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean from north Africa in rickety boats directly to Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera.

In total, 2,011 migrants arrived in the Spanish mainland and Balearic Islands by sea between 1 January and 15 March, a 54 per cent rise from 2023, when 1,306 made the journey, according to Spanish government figures – but still a trickle compared to the tens of thousands of migrants who have made the journey to the Canary Islands.

However, Spain’s left-wing government distributes asylum seekers around its regions while their claims are considered – a process that usually takes about three years.

The Balearics’ governing People’s Party supported Vox’s motion in a vote in the regional parliament in February calling on Spain’s left-wing government not to send more migrants to the islands.

The far-right Vox Party also demanded that irregular migrants should not be registered with councils on the islands, which is how they access basic services while their asylum claims are considered.

“We should end grants and help for NGOs that work with illegal migrants,” Vox MP Sergio Rodriguez told i.

José María Manso, retired chief inspector of the National Police foreigners unit in the Balearic Islands, claimed migrants caused crime.

Chief Inspector Manso told Ultima Hora newspaper: “It is true that there is an increasingly large trickle of people staying in Mallorca irregularly. The vast majority who stay here are committing crimes and are repeat offenders. Without any problem they can commit up to 30 crimes in a short time.”

However, Andreu Grimalt, of the Inclusion Network in the Balearics, which helps migrants, condemned the Vox motion.

“We should eradicate all hate speech and guarantee rights to all people,” he told Cadena Ser radio station. “Access to these rights, resources and benefits must be guaranteed, regardless of their situation.”

Anna Nicholas, a British author and long-term resident of Mallorca, said most people on the island were tolerant towards migrants.

“People in general are very accepting of immigrants here,” she told i.

Sira Rego, the Spanish minister for children, has granted an extra €15m (£12.84m) to help provide more resources to accommodate child migrants in the Balearic Islands.

But Catalina Cirer, Balearics minister for social affairs, called for the Spanish government to bring in greater controls on child migrants being sent from the Canary Islands to Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

The Balearic Islands have the highest number of foreigners in Spain, with almost a third of all residents coming from Britain, Germany and other countries, according to Focus on Spanish Society, a 2023 report by Spanish think-tank Funcas.

There are 16,000 Britons registered with authorities in the islands, making the fourth-largest community of UK citizens in Spain. In total, there were 307,000 registered in 2023, according to the Spanish Statistics Institute.