boat with illegal immigrantsImmigrant boats arriving in the Canary Islands continues, but during the last seven months numbers have fallen to about half compared to the same period last year.   This good news suggests that the thousands of young Africans who attempt the sea crossing every year now seem to understand the serious risks involved.  

No doubt the Interior Ministry is right in asserting that the fall in numbers is due mainly to stricter patrols in the Atlantic, and to the cooperation of countries such as Morocco and Senegal, the starting point for the majority of immigrant boats.

The drop in attempts at illegal entry into Spain—and by extension Europe — by way of the perilous sea crossing, does not mean that the problems of illegal immigration are solved.

Although this year’s maritime-immigration figure has halved, it still amounts to more than 7,000 people, many of them minors.

The sea crossing in small boats is the most dramatic part of the immigration phenomenon, it is not the most significant from an arithmetical standpoint.   In fact, the 17,000 people who arrived in the Canary Islands and on the Mediterranean coastline in 2006 represent only a small percentage of the vast pool of irregular labour which exists in Spain and the Canary Islands, in which hundreds of thousands of undocumented foreigners find employment.

The positive results in maritime border control will now allow more breathing space for a serious approach to the other side of the problem: the control of illegal employment within Spain and the Canaries. From this point of view, there is a  need to adopt measures to bring to the surface the “submerged” economy that demands a labour force in conditions of semi slavery, a demand satisfied by workers who have entered Spain illegally.

Not only do these illegal immigrants lack the normal labour rights possessed by any legal worker, they are actually non-existent as legal subjects, and invisible as individuals.