Canary Islands garage converted into Spanish school for migrants

Tito Martin also offers food and a shower

A resident of Gran Canaria, one of Spain's Canary Islands off north-western Africa, has converted his garage into a classroom to teach migrants Spanish amid a surge of arrivals.

Tito Martin, who lives in the city of Las Palmas, made the move after deciding there were not enough resources to support migrants.

Local authorities have struggled to handle the sharp rise in arrivals, with 7,260 people landing on the Canary Island between January and mid-July, compared with 2,800 in the same period of 2020.

The journey across the Atlantic from north-western Africa is particularly perilous.

“I thought it was time to stop just agreeing with news and commentary about the [migrant] situation and decided to take action,” Mr Martin said.

The devastating impact of Covid-19 on tourism and other industries has been blamed for the increase in arrivals.

“I want to learn Spanish. Before I lived in Senegal, I had never been to school, I didn't know how to read,” said Mar Low, 25. He arrived on the Canary Islands eight months ago and attends Spanish lessons three times a week.

Mr Low spent two weeks at sea, and five days without food or water, before being rescued by a Spanish ship.

“If they hadn't helped us we would all have died for sure,” he said.

As well as learning Spanish, students can eat and have a shower.

“What I have had first and foremost from the boys is gratitude, in spite of their desperate situation,” said Mr Martin.

Local languages teacher Isabel Florido is one of the tutors at the makeshift classroom.

“I'm a conscious person, aware of what's going on around me and the reality is that … my island is suffering right now, I care about it,” she said.

Updated: July 26th 2021, 12:43 PM