Migrants arriving in Lesbos, Greece.
Carl-Johan Karlsson

As borders closed and lockdowns were rolled out around the world, the steady flow of illegal immigration that has plagued southern Europe for years was also temporarily halted. But new arrivals are now accelerating again, and some of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic are now also forced to deal with a worsening refugee crisis.

In Italy and Spain, the lack of tourism has been particularly hard on the economy and now a growing number of refugee boats are landing on the empty beaches, while in Greece, the pressure is rising in the aftermath of the Greek-Turkish border crisis, with the island camps still overcrowded and increasing popular unrest on Lesbos and other islands in the Aegean Sea.

ITALY As of June, more than 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy's shores, which is roughly 9,000 more than during the same period last year. The influx spiked last month, as many chose to embark on the dangerous journey during July when the sea was relatively calm, the UN Refugee Agency reports.

• With both COVID-19 and an economic crisis plaguing Tunisia, Italy has seen a higher-than-usual number of migrants arriving from the North African country. The rise — which is still a fraction of the amount which arrived at the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015 — has prompted Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese to call the situation a health problem, claiming that migrants were bringing the coronavirus back to Italy.

• However, Italian daily Internazionale reports these claims as false, as an average of more than 200 residents in Italy have tested positive for the coronavirus every day in the last few weeks, compared to about three newly arrived migrants per day.

Refugees arriving in Malaga, Spain, on June 20— Photo: Jesus Merida/SOPA Images/ZUMA

SPAIN Spanish authorities have also reported an increase in Mediterranean crossings, with around 2,000 migrants arriving in June out of which 700 — mostly Algerians — landed on the shores of Murcia and Almeria the last weekend of the month.

• The Canary Islands are also experiencing a spike in arrivals, as increased border controls in northern Morocco are pushing the migration routes to the Atlantic side, where the closest islands are 95 kilometers west of the Moroccan coast.

El Pais reports that at least 50 African migrants have drowned in late August after their boats sank on the perilous route that is rife with undercurrents and has limited coast guard resources. One vessels broke down off the coast of Mauritania, resulting in 40 deaths, while the second shipwreck took place near the coast of Western Sahara, and left at least 10 people dead.

GREECE The country only received 244 migrants in July, compared 5,008 the same month last year. Although, camps are still overcrowded and resources and the ability to social distance remain limited.

• While life is slowly returning to normal for Greeks and tourists alike, asylum seekers and migrants in reception centers on the Greek islands continue to be under lockdown although very few infections have been detected among the migrants.

• In addition, Doctors Without Borders reported in July that a large number of refugees with severe health and mental health conditions are threatened with eviction from their accommodation, cut off from cash assistance and left in the streets without access to shelter, protection or proper healthcare.

• As of June 1, all refugees who received international protection before May 1 are no longer eligible to stay at reception facilities. In total, more than 11,000 people are set to be evicted from reception and identification centers, camps and hotels, according to Refugee Support Aegean.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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