A happy Xmas to all

DEAR all, here we are in December and Happy Christmas is coming. What a short, and very dry, year it’s been, but near drought conditions here have been alleviated by recent rain, hallelujah!, brought by Theta, Barbara and Clement.

‘Barbara Causes Havoc’ headlines caused some family concern, but I was blameless. All three were tropical storms that swirled eastwards towards us across the Atlantic, bringing rain and high winds. Clement seems a weirdly inappropriate name for bad weather.

Coming at us from the west, despite the dangerously high seas and aforementioned wind, a very different phenomenon continues: thousands of Africans in small boats called cayucos trying to get to Europe. In one weekend alone, 2,000 people arrived in the Canaries from Senegal, minors and pregnant women among them. Over 32,000 Africans, 25,000 of them Senegalese, have arrived here this year. People emigrate in flimsy boats only out of necessity.

Fishermen like Amidou Fall from Guet-Ndar in Saint Louis, Sengal, speak of lost livelihoods due to the sale of fishing rights to European countries.

“There’s no fish left for us to eat – let alone sell – so we leave, knowing in Europe we could earn 16 times more, keep our children at school and add 20 years to the family’s life expectancy,” he says.

Canarian president Ángel Victor Torres’ repeated requests for help have fallen on deaf ears in Madrid. The situation in Arguineguin, Gran Canaria has been critical, with thousands of people sleeping under canvas on the jetty, attended by overstretched Red Cross, emergency and medical personnel.

Immigrants are moved on to any available shelter. These often makeshift arrangements can cause problems, such as the bizarre situation on Tenerife, where  Ministry of Defence work to adapt Las Raíces barracks for 1,450 immigrants and Las Canteras for 1,800, has been stopped because no licence was requested, and the area sealed off.

Meanwhile, it’s (nearly) all systems go on the more lucrative tourism influx. This is our high season, when our trump cards of winter sun and low Covid are played.

Flights are on sale, but only those with negative antigen tests can come. Torres downgraded the Madrid PCR requirement for the Canaries, knowing the lifting of lockdown in the UK meant a potential Brit rush for holidays here. Unfortunately, antigen tests aren’t readily available there either, so let’s see what happens.

What’s sure is that it’ll be a different Christmas, New Year and Reyes. The most urgent problem to grapple with is plotting a safe course through where, how and when we can gather without incurring a Festive Fine.

One sad, but not entirely surprising, result of family lockdown in Spain is the high incidence of parents attempting to legally disinherit their children. Coupled with soaring domestic violence, this bodes ill for festive family harmony, but we’ll be fine, dear readers, as I know we’re civilised personages who’ll remember we love our kids, siblings, parents and partners very much.

Here’s wishing us all a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY (and normal?) NEW YEAR.

Barbara Belt. barbarabelt@gmail.com
EWN December 2020.

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Barbara Belt