Sunday, 9 November 2014

Migrants from Africa detained in Canary Islands over Ebola concerns

African migrants, some of whom were suffering from fever, were kept on a beach in the Canary Islands for five hours Wednesday, over concerns that they may be suffering from Ebola.

It was a case of "better safe than sorry," when 23 undocumented migrants arrived on a beach in Maspalomas on Gran Canaria island on Wednesday.  Delays were caused as authorities had to decide whether to activate Ebola protocols or not, a problem that seems to be cropping up worldwide, as medical officials try to understand and deal with the deadly virus.

The migrants arrived on the beach from Africa on a small boat at 9 a.m. and immediately Red Cross volunteers went to their aid.  On taking their temperature, they found six of the migrants were running a high fever.  The Red Cross decided it was a good idea to activate their own Ebola protocol and called on the regional health department for assistance. It then took four hours for the doctors to arrive on the scene, and in the meantime the Red Cross volunteers left food, water bottles and face masks on the beach for the migrants to use. 

While this was going on, and during the delay until the doctors arrived, local police ensured that nobody got closer than 20 meters to the migrants, with the police officers wearing face masks and gloves, but dressed in short sleeve uniform shirts (see photo). Naturally, if the migrants had been suffering from Ebola, this clothing would not have been much help.However, El Mundo has published a photo showing the detainees seated on the beach in the background, with two nude male tourists strolling in the foreground!

When eventually the public health service doctors arrived, they questioned the migrants.  As soon as it was clear that none of them had recently been in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone (the most badly affected countries), they were given the all-clear.  At that stage the four weakest individuals were taken for medical treatment in the Red Cross vehicle and the balance were loaded on to what was virtually a garbage truck, used for beach cleaning, and taken to the local police station for identification, prior to the start of deportation proceedings.

Red Cross coordinator José Antonio Rodríguez complained, saying that a garbage truck was no way to transport human beings, particularly those that were unwell.  However, the major of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Marco Aurelio Pérez, told him no other four-wheel vehicles were available that could transport that many persons over the rough terrain, adding, “We had to get those men off the beach quickly, they’d been there five hours,” he said.

There was a similar incident in Aluche, Madrid at the beginning of October where undocumented migrants were isolated in a holding area for 19 hours without food, on suspicion that some of them might be suffering from Ebola.

El Pais
El Mundo