Maritime Safety Agency boats are regularly called upon to pick up migrants. | Michel's


In 2019, 41 boats with 507 migrants arrived in the Balearics. In 2022, there were 176 boats with 2,637 people.

The most notable increase occurred in 2020, when the number of migrants went from 507 to 1,464. Since then, the rate of growth has been "stabilising". This was the view last week of the Spanish government's delegate in the Balearics, Aina Calvo, who nevertheless accepted that the figures are "high" and represent a "challenge".

Part of this challenge lies with repatriating migrants to Algeria. The boats that arrive in the Balearics all come from Algeria and the vast majority of migrants are Algerian citizens. Issues with repatriation arose because of the pandemic, but there is now the diplomatic row between Spain and Algeria regarding the future of Western Sahara.

The authorities in Mallorca cannot detain migrants for longer than 72 hours. An exception can be if a court orders detention when the National Police have good grounds for believing that individuals are engaged in organised illegal immigration: 'skippers' of boats have been arrested, charged and sentenced.

Once the detention period is over, underage migrants are taken into the care of social services, while NGOs also play a role in looking after adult migrants. But most leave for the mainland with the aim (usually) of heading for France or Belgium.

The Algerian authorities do attempt to prevent illegal migration. For example, over the first ten days of 2022 the Algerian Coast Guard stopped 474 people. But they can achieve only so much, as the arrivals in the Balearics indicate.