Migrants Block Albacete Streets Over Lockdown Fears

Dozens of migrants have blocked the streets of a Spanish city in protest at the conditions they were being kept in after they were forced to stay in an illegal overcrowded settlement for lockdown.

The incident occurred when the migrants, who are temporary agricultural workers, broke the latest coronavirus lockdown to protest in the streets of the city of Albacete, in the south-central Spanish region of Castilla La Mancha.

Local newspaper ABC report the migrants are living in what is an illegal settlement in the city and therefore not subject to the same safety standards, and also say they have been forced to stay in the settlement during the lockdown.

There have been 21 recent cases of COVID-19 among temporary workers in the area, with at least one of those who tested positive living in the allegedly illegal settlement from which the workers protested.

The angry group went onto the streets without face masks and ignoring social distancing, with a video showing them crowded together and refusing to let cars pass.

Local newspaper Es Diario report that the protesters faced off with other migrants and police officers who had been called to the scene.

Officers can be seen trying to bring order to the traffic in a roundabout as the protesters stop cars passing.

ABC report Miguel Juan Espinosa, the sub-delegate of the government of the province of Albacete, went to the scene in order to keep an eye on the situation and bring an end to the protest.

The protestors, around 100 in number according to ABC, were eventually sent back to the settlement where they live with around 400 other temporary workers.

The Popular Party (PP, centre-right) in the city council of Albacete released a press statement reported by ABC saying that they will ask the national government for an increased army presence in the area to “restore order back to the city”.

The Mayor of Albacete, Vicente Casan, announced in a press conference reported by ABC that the settlement will be closed and he will offer resources to the Health Department so that the people living there could live through the lockdown in better conditions.

The head of local police, Pascual Martinez, confirmed in the same press conference reported by ABC that backup from the regions of Murcia, Zaragoza and Ciudad Real have already arrived in the city in order to help control the situation.

Martinez explained to ABC that the settlement has been there for more than a decade and thanked the temporary workers living there who helped encourage the protesters to return to the settlement without further incident.

He also asked local businesspeople in agriculture to find more dignified living conditions for the temporary workers.

Local radio station Cope reported migrants who had tested negative for COVID will be sent to a different area so they are separated from the positive cases.

Spain has seen several outbreaks of COVID-19 linked with the gathering of temporary workers for agriculture, with the fruit picking season in Catalonia in the northeast bringing a huge spike in cases and leading to a lockdown in the comarca of Segria.

The region of Catalonia saw 944 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday (18th July), according to the Catalan Health Department.

According to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University, Spain has registered 260,255 cases of COVID-15 and 28,420 related deaths.