Aboubacar, from arriving in a boat to the Canary Islands in the record year to interpreter for the UN: "Before we came to improve, now for survival"

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Aboubacar Drama35 years old and originally from Mali, arrived in the Canary Islands on a boat at the age of 17 in 2006, when the largest migratory arrival that the islands have experienced to date took place, known as canoe crisis. Today, 17 years later, he is an exceptional witness to another wave of landings similar in magnitude to the one that brought him, a rebound whose figures are close to that historical maximum of 2006 and that has tense the situation in places like the island of The ironoverwhelmed by the arrival of around 7,000 immigrants this year, when its population is around 11,000.

After 12 years working as integrator and educator At the center for minor immigrants in Ayagaures, on the island of Gran Canaria, Aboubacar is now an interpreter and provides services as such for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Master the Arabic, French, Spanish and the Bambara and Soninke dialects, which are spoken in countries such as Mali, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Senegal or Guinea. These days he has attended to several immigrants who arrived this week. “The interviews I do with users are confidential,” she says.

Aboubacar returned to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Monday after spending a month and a half on vacation in his country, Mali. When he undertook the outward journey, at the end of August, the islands had received a total of 11,439 immigrants so far in 2023, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior. In the month and a half that he has been away, more have arrived than in those first seven months: 12,098 people. He has not witnessed the incessant landing of boats and canoes but he has perceived the dimension of the phenomenon around him. “Suddenly in a month there has been a huge rebound. I know this because I visit shelters, both for minors and adults. In Canarias 50, which is one of the largest, it shows a lot. During my vacation they have doubled the number of people,” says Aboubacar, who estimates that the center is now at the limit of its capacity, which reaches 1,000 places.

In 2006, together with Aboubacar – he arrived in March – they landed on the Canary coast. 31,678 immigrantsan unprecedented record since the first boat arrived on the islands on August 28, 1994, a small boat in which they traveled two sahrawis who carried a flag of the Polisario Front and who, according to the chronicles of the time, were received in Fuerteventura with applause. The reinforcement of the borders of Ceuta and Melilla, the conflicts in several African countries and the buoyant situation of Spain, which was then experiencing boom inmobiliario and demanded a lot of labor for construction, they put the Canary Islands in the focus of immigration.

Serves as a reference for the magnitude of that canoe crisis the fact that the previous year, 2005, 4,751 immigrants had arrived in the Canary Islands, almost seven times fewer.

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