Migrants leave Red Cross camp for island cliffside

More than 60 North African migrants are living in tents in the mountains of the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, after abandoning a Red Cross center which they say crammed dozens of them into squalid conditions.

About 23,000 migrants made the dangerous Atlantic crossing to the Canary Islands last year, nearly ten times the number from 2019.

Expecting a further influx, authorities began housing thousands in camps, drawing criticism from rights groups over inhumane conditions.

Now perched on a windswept cliffside near the city of Las Palmas, the makeshift camp has no access to running water and is dangerously exposed to the elements.

The men claim they were expelled from the center. Two of them, who did not want to be named, gave their account of the conditions.

"They expelled us because we didn't accept sleeping in the same place with 50 other people where COVID quarantine was taking place."

"It is a big problem, we don't have anything to eat, we came here to Spain to change how we live. I'm a person not an animal."

Speaking to Reuters, a Red Cross spokesman disputed those claims saying “We did not ask them to leave. We spoke with all the men involved one by one and encouraged them not to abandon the center."

The Red Cross says they left of their own accord, after objecting to being temporarily transferred to larger tents within the same site.

The men also complain of drug use and petty crime as well as the cramped conditions. The spokesman says the facilities comply with all sanitary standards.

Video Transcript

- More than 60 North African migrants are living in tents in the mountains of the Spanish island of Gran Canaria after abandoning a Red Cross center, which they say crammed dozens of them into squalid conditions. About 23,000 migrants made the dangerous Atlantic crossing to the Canary Islands last year, nearly 10 times the number from 2019. Expecting a further influx, authorities began housing thousands in camps, drawing criticism from rights groups over inhumane conditions.

Now perched on a windswept cliffside near the city of Las Palmas, the makeshift camp has no access to running water and is dangerously exposed to the elements. The men claim they were expelled from the center. Two of them, who did not want to be named, gave their account of the conditions.

- They expelled us because we didn't accept sleeping in the same place with 50 other people and where COVID quarantine was taking place.

- This a big problem. We don't have anything. We went there for a change. We leave for go to Spain for why we believe that. I'm the person, not animal.

- Speaking to Reuters, a Red Cross spokesman disputed those claims, saying, quote, "We did not ask them to leave. We spoke with all the men involved one by one and encouraged them not to abandon the center." The Red Cross says they left of their own accord after objecting to being temporarily transferred to larger tents within the same site. The men also complained of drug use and petty crime as well as the cramped conditions. The spokesman says the facilities comply with all sanitary standards.