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More child migrants are arriving alone in Spain's holiday islands than ever before. This is what happens to them

February 23, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 22.2%. 2 min read.

Elementary school children don't typically venture far from home on their own, but 11-year-old Abou managed to cross a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, from Africa to Europe, in the hands of strangers.

Abou, from West Africa's Ivory Coast, boarded an inflatable dinghy alongside four other children, and a mother and her baby, all bound for the Canary Islands, in search of a better life.

But as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus, many of the traditional migrant routes through Africa have been disrupted, making the Canary Islands -- an autonomous Spanish territory some 70 miles (110 km) off the coast of north-western Africa -- the new gateway for many trying to make a fresh start in Europe.

Spain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says around 23,000 migrants arrived in the Canary Islands from Africa in 2020 -- more than seven times the number of arrivals in 2019.

And almost 2,600 of them were, like Abou, unaccompanied minors -- more than three times 2019's numbers -- Canary Islands' government data shows.

On the Canary Islands, though, some families are taking part in a scheme run by the local government and SUMAS, a non-profit organization, by offering temporary foster care for migrant children like Abou.

Omar lives in a center for child migrants, run by the Canary Islands government.

Adding to the challenges they face; some migrant children remain in limbo even after arriving safely on the islands.

But backlogs due to the pandemic mean around 500 young people are still waiting to have their ages confirmed, said Martinez, from the Canary Islands' government.

The Canary Islands government said it had received €10 million ($12m) from the Spanish government to help house and care for child migrants, but that the funding fell far short of its program's needs.

Oussama El Baroudi, from the International Organization for Migration, said the situation on the islands was one of many examples which highlight the need for a long-term multilateral solution for the migrant crisis: "It will be important for both Spain and the EU to adopt a way of managing migrations that will guarantee that they can take place in an ordered and safe manner. "

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