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'We're not racist!' Fury as pretty Lanzarote village to be 'ruined' by huge migrant centre


British expats and Spanish locals in a pretty Lanzarote village are outraged after being called “racist” for opposing a bid to put a huge migrant centre in the middle of their community on land that should be a park.

Protests have recently shattered the usual peace and tranquility of the charming community of Güime, a small settlement of a few thousand people who live in white-washed homes typical of the island.

Encircled by Güime, in the San Bartolomé municipality, is a 12,000 square metre plot of a former military storage site known as El Polvorín.

The site had been earmarked by legendary Lanzarote artist César Manrique to become a beautiful park. Manrique is credited by locals for protecting traditional architecture on Lanzarote when many other Canary Islands became heavily developed for tourism.

With the site still not transformed, locals are now worried a previously rejected migrant centre will be built in the middle of their village despite another centre for 400 already existing nearby.

If it goes ahead, the centre would be one of the first sights to greet nearly one million British tourists and expats arriving each year at the nearby airport.

Locals fear their hometown will be ruined – and are even more baffled about the proposals because a brand new 2.1 million euro (£1.8 million) complex built with EU funding near the port at Arrecife has been sitting empty since October.

A police source old Spanish newspaper El Pais: “It is inexplicable that there is a place next to the police station, near the port where the migrant boats arrive. It’s hard to understand what’s going on that’s keeping the camp from opening.”

A local in the village told Express.co.uk it was odd the authorities were not using the brand new centre which they said was already built and had rooms and showers.

In Güime, one British expat, who asked to remain anonymous, said she has lived on the island for nearly 20 years. She said the political atmosphere had left many afraid to speak out against the centre because they were being accused of being “racist”.

She said: “In our village we have been called racist and xenophobes for having a demonstration for saying that the site where they are proposing to put this immigration centre is not suitable.

“There was no politics involved in our protest and there is certainly no racism on our part, I have no issue with migrants, and I would gladly help them.

“I feel very sorry that they make this terrible journey, risking their lives, but for what? That is the question.

“People need to ask who is responsible for them? What are we offering them as a life? Education, job prospects? Somewhere to live?

“How do current resources, police, hospitals, schools cope? I think people should be addressing these questions, talking about integration and really importantly communicating with the population.

“People accusing residents of being racist are arrogant and ignorant because they do not want to face the conversation of what is the future, on both sides, for the poor people coming here and the populations that already exist.”

The long-time resident added that the proposed migrant centre would be visible to tourists arriving at the airport as a first impression of the island.

She added: “In 2006 they wanted to put a migrant centre there and it was stopped, it was agreed that the local council would make a park out of it, which had been the vision of César Manrique.”

Photographs taken from the airport show where the migrant centre would be on a hill – which would be the first view Lanzarote holidaymakers would see as they arrive on the beautiful Spanish island.

Spanish local Manolo Rodrigues has lived in Güime area since the 1970s. He agreed the land should be made into a park as it is the first thing visitors see when they get off the plane.

He said: “It should be the first thing tourists see when they land on Lanzarote, let’s make a nice entrance and beautiful view as the first impression.

“It (a migrant centre) would have a massive impact on us, and now the sleepy village has woken up and started protesting against this.”

Mr Rodrigues explained that no one has a problem with helping the migrants but there were already facilities available and putting a centre in the middle of the village with no support infrastructure was wrong.

He continued: “Nobody is against helping these people.

“The municipal council is doing their part but it’s not right to plan this centre in a protected area in the backyard of people’s homes, especially as there are other solutions.”

A spokesperson for the UN International Organization for Migration told Express.co.uk: “Between January and December 2023, 39,910 migrants reached the Canary Islands irregularly after crossing by boat from the coasts of West Africa, an increase of 155 per cent compared to 2022 (15,682 migrants).

“So far in 2024, a total of 14,724 sea arrivals to Spain have been recorded, 8,067 in January, 5,968 in February and 689 as of 17 March.”

Express.co.uk has contacted the Spanish Government for comment.

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