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Spanish government abandoned Canary Islands in migration crisis

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"The Canary Islands have been suffering from great migratory pressure for months and the Spanish government has abandoned the region," Gabriel Mato MEP said today (19 January) during a debate in the European Parliament on migration and asylum.

"The Canary Islands are overwhelmed and the Spanish Socialist government, due to its negligence and incapacity, has left them on their own," he added.

For this reason, Mato said: "We need the solidarity and direct support of the European Union for the Canary Islands, which is also an external border of the Union."

"We need European support to save lives and also to protect the borders of the EU, since we all have the same obligations with regard to immigrants arriving on our continent," he explained.

Since the beginning of 2021, more than 2,000 irregular immigrants have arrived in the Canary Islands. In 2020, more than 23,000 arrived, which means an increase of 856% compared to the previous year.

The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 187 Members from all EU member states.

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Back to the beach: Spain welcomes all vaccinated tourists from June 7

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People at a restaurant terrace at the end of Good Friday's "Rompida de la Hora" (Breaking of the hour) in Calanda, Spain, April 2, 2021. REUTERS/Susana Vera
Passengers queue outside a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing site at Son Sant Joan airport in Palma de Mallorca, ahead of Easter celebrations, Spain, April 1, 2021. REUTERS/Enrique Calvo

Tourist magnet Spain will let people from anywhere in the world who are vaccinated against COVID-19 enter the country from 7 June, hoping to galvanize a recovery in the devastated tourism sector, write Nathan Allen and Clara-laeila Laudette.

The world's second most visited country before the pandemic hit, foreign tourism to Spain plunged 80% last year as restrictions brought leisure travel to a virtual standstill, leaving its beaches, palaces and hotels almost deserted.

Entry will be allowed to vaccinated travellers regardless of their country of origin, and notably from the United States, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Friday at Madrid's FITUR international tourism trade fair.

Spain will also permit tourists from 10 non-EU countries deemed low-risk to enter without a negative PCR test for coronavirus from May 24.

Britain, Spain's largest market for foreign tourists, will be included on the list, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Israel, among others.

"They're welcome - more than welcome - without restrictions nor health controls," Sanchez told reporters.

Spain was one of Europe's worst-hit nations in the pandemic, recording over 78,000 coronavirus deaths and 3.6 million cases. But infection rates have fallen and vaccinations are progressing fast, enabling most of its regions to scrap curfews.

Speaking a day after the EU reached a long-awaited deal for digital vaccine certificates, Sanchez said the return of tourism would be the key driver of Spain's economic recovery. The sector previously accounted for 12% of output. Read more

Health Minister Carolina Darias said Spain was working with the EU to extend the bloc's vaccine certificate programme, due to launch on July 1, to third countries.

Spanish hotel reservations are already rising since a state of emergency expired earlier this month and Sanchez said the new travel regime would allow arrivals to reach up to 70% of pre-pandemic levels by the year's end.

This summer he forecast arrivals could reach 30%-40% of 2019's levels. Read more

While the Spanish arm of global airline association ALA welcomed the news, president Javier Gandara said obstacles remained, noting Britain had yet to include Spain, or at least its lowest-incidence regions, in its "green" list, meaning Britons still have to quarantine upon returning.

Gandara called for Spain to renew travel from Latin America, where many of the vaccines being administered have not been approved by the World Health Organization nor by Europe's Medicines Agency.

"We ask that Latin Americans be allowed to travel to Spain on condition they present a negative PCR test result," he said.

The decision to reopen routes between Spain and Latin America should come within weeks, Iberia airline CEO Javier Sanchez-Prieto said.

Spain's hotel federation CEHAT also reproached domestic and European officials for the delay in rolling out the digital COVID passport.

"If the certificate had been launched earlier, perhaps the months of May and June - vital for Spanish tourist activity - would not be lost," CEHAT stated.

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Bienvenidos! Tourists invited to rural Spain to save dying villages

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A villager drinks coffee at the only bar in Peleas de Abajo, in northwestern Spain, March 8, 2012. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Instead of the traditional sand and sea holidays, foreign tourists are invited to enjoy the charms of the Spanish countryside, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday (22 May), launching an ambitious plan to save Spain's dying villages.

The €10 billion euro ($12.18bn) plan aims to save rural life in a nation where 42% of villages are at risk of depopulation compared to a European Union average of 10%.

"I would especially like to emphasize that (tourists) should enjoy the rich rural tourist attractions that our country has, one of the jewels in the crown," Sanchez told a meeting in Madrid of mayors from rural towns.

From today (24 May), Spain will open up to tourists from outside the European Union deemed low-risk for coronavirus, notably Britain and Japan, who will not be required to show a negative test. Read more.

And from 7 June, Spain will let people from anywhere in the world who are vaccinated against COVID-19 enter the country, hoping to galvanize a recovery in the devastated tourism sector.

Improving digital connectivity for rural holiday companies is part of the plan, which also envisages expanding sustainable tourism.

The left-wing government plans to increase internet access in rural areas, improve transport routes, offer grants for young entrepreneurs and small businesses and launch a rural Erasmus educational scheme.

Sanchez said that Spain's 47 million people occupy just 12.7% of the land, compared to 67.8% of the territory populated in France and 59.9% of German territory.

Many rural villages have an average density of less than 12 people per square kilometre, the government estimates.

($1 = €0.8211)

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Police move revellers off streets as Barcelona parties after lockdown easing

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People dance at the Barceloneta beach, as the state of emergency decreed by the Spanish Government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was lifted a week ago in Barcelona, Spain, May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Police officers evict groups of more than six people at Barceloneta beach, as the state of emergency decreed by the Spanish Government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was lifted a week ago in Barcelona, Spain, May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Spanish police said they cleared 9,000 revellers from Barcelona's city centre streets and the nearby beach on Sunday to prevent dangerous overcrowding on the first full weekend after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Many in the crowd had taken part in mass drinking sessions known as "botellones", police said.

Culture Minister José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, speaking at an event in Madrid, urged young people to continue to follow social distancing rules.

"I know what it means to have lived with lots of restrictions and that need to go out, but I ask you to do it carefully, to enjoy yourself, but to be very careful and to continue to respect security measures," Rodríguez Uribes said.

The government lifted a six-month state of emergency on May 9 at midnight (2200 GMT), so this was the first chance for revellers to party throughout the weekend.

There are still some restrictions in place. In Catalonia whose capital is Barcelona, bars and restaurants are open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. and the maximum number of people allowed at tables is four.

With no more curbs on moving around the country, many Spaniards took a mini-break over the weekend.

Traffic authorities reported a 42% rise in cars leaving major cities on Friday compared with the same time the previous week. Tourist chiefs in the southeastern resort of Benidorm said hotel bookings were at 60%.

One of Europe's worst-hit nations, Spain has recorded 79,339 coronavirus deaths and 3.6 million cases, according to health ministry data on Friday. But infection rates have fallen and nearly a third of the population has had at least one vaccination dose.

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