The mobile phone footage showing the youths enjoying a swimming pool (Que Horror!) without complying with health restrictions led to Guardia Civil agents being quick to act, due to multiple complaints from local residents, and once they had verified the facts they filed four separate complaint reports, three for disobedience and one against the hotel management for having allowed the gathering of up to thirty young males without masks or social distancing.
The Guardia Civil reported in a brief statement that the incident came to their knowledge thanks to viral images being repeatedly shared, in which a group of young migrants were seen enjoying a swimming pool at a tourist complex, without respect for interpersonal distance or wearing masks, and having greatly exceeded the maximum number of people allowed to meet together in the same space.
“The Civil Guard of Puerto Rico has proceeded, this afternoon, to draw up four reports of complaints in a tourist complex used for the reception of migrants,” they explained.
They also highlighted that because the images reached the Civil Guard, actually while the gathering was happening, the group could be dispersed quickly. Thereby limiting any possible health concerns raised from their enjoying a swimming pool.
The Canary Islands Government Ministry of Social Rights, however, have said no infraction was in fact committed by the youths simply enjoying a swimming pool, because at the time these people can be deemed to be living together, as cohabitants. Guardia Civil sources on the other hand say that they had acted in accordance with the current law and in accordance with Alert Level 3 restrictions that currently prevail on the island of Gran Canaria, pointing out that, outside of a family, more than four people cannot mix together, unless they reside at the same address. In this particular case, enjoying a swimming pool in a hotel complex where the teenagers are all living together, it is understood that those who live in the same room are to be treated as cohabitants, but not those living in different rooms.
Noemí Santana, Canary Islands Minister for Social Rights, made clear that the migrants reported for enjoying a swimming pool, are all minors, cohabiting and that they had permission to use the common areas of the establishment. Sources from the Ministry of Social Rights, which has jurisdiction over unaccompanied foreign minors who arrive on the islands, clarified that the young people involved do not have to wear masks because they all live together and, like the rest of the people who arrive to the Archipelago by sea, a PCR is performed on them, on arrival. “They are like a family. It doesn’t matter if they are ten or one hundred. They live together,” said Santana.
The teenagers at the complex, however, were deemed by the agents to be breaking Covid-19 regulations, when bathing in a pool, because they were not maintaining safe distances, and more than four people were seen mixing together. When the agents went to the scene, monitors at that complex prevented them from verifying these facts, as they did not grant them access without their having a court order. Normal procedure when dealing with minors.
Three of the reports filed are for disobedience, while the last one is against the managers of the apartment complex for allowing the youths to ignore current restrictions.
While it is of course of paramount importance that everybody understands and complies with the current COVID 19 Alert Level 3 restrictions, no question, it does feel a little awkward that these, what we have assumed to be, unaccompanied minors, all living together for the last couple of months, under the social care of volunteer associations and the Regional Government, might find it difficult to understand why they may not use the swimming pool. They are teenagers with little else to do, enjoying a swimming pool.
Differing opinions were reported this Sunday between the Guardia Civil’s interpretation and that of the Ministry of Social Rights who say, for the purposes of covid restrictions, this group can all probably be seen as cohabitants. It is clearly a point up for debate. We can’t really be angry with the kids for not understanding restrictions that the authorities themselves are unclear about.
There is, of course, a sub-section of our resident community that is utterly outraged by young migrants being allowed to use the pool, at all, and who are on guard night and day for fear of their worst nightmares coming true. They constantly talk of invasions and outright lawlessness, threatening behaviour and daily intimidation, when there really is very little of anything like that to be seen. While there is no doubt that there have been isolated incidents, some empty restaurants have certainly been broken into and booze stolen, it is probably that fact that incriminates the young migrants more than anything, but little more complex or criminal than your average British village Bobby might have to deal with.
There have been reports of fights, mainly among the migrants themselves, within one or two of the more crowded complexes, and these have led to a couple of arrests, but in general what we are really dealing with here is young men with nothing to do, being forced to stay in one place while the otherwise preoccupied central Government tries to figure out what to do with them next. It’s not good enough, but it is easy to understand.
Without making excuses, all those idle young hands and restless testosterone is bound to lead to some bad decisions and challenges to authority. And while some of those kids are undoubtedly tougher than any who grow up round here, this is not exactly a post-apocalyptic scene from Mad Max.
While there have been credible reports of small groups breaking the current curfew restrictions, and even video of a small number attempting forced entry in to locked businesses in the middle of the night, most of what we are dealing with here is a woefully inadequate provision of services to wards of the state.
Nevertheless, as a society we are coping pretty well. Those few thousand migrants still in our care, including at least 500 unaccompanied youths in the south, out of 2,500 migrant minors currently cared for by the Regional Government, are not being left homeless without food, they are not forced into ever increasing criminality, they have on the whole plenty to be grateful for, with the least worst option, receiving food and a bed, and a chance to be processed through our social system, to progress with their aims, which all generally include wanting to leave The Canary Islands as soon as they can. None of this merits the clear xenophobia that has been loudly voiced for months now, by a small minded few, nor the extremist misinformation that gets repeatedly peddled to try to justify fear based reactionary comments and leads to feelings of insecurity, despite the evidence.
No one likes this situation, but throwing our toys around and acting out, as though we are under threat, will not make us look like the adults in the room.
There have been lots of people in recent months who have surprisingly decided they know our politics, or how we think, without ever asking for our input.
Often they do this without even reading our work. They broadcast their opinions without being willing to engage in dialogue.
We have received multiple threats, for daring to report observations from here on the ground, no matter how many sources we use to verify the information we publish.
We have been subjected to abuse, lies, defamation of character and constant name calling. But this has little importance to when we personally witness the violent hatred, false accusations, lies and unfounded fear that is repeatedly directed at migrant arrivals, none of whom ever seem to have a voice in all this. It seems it is alright to say whatever you like against migrant arrivals, but woe betide anyone who argues for compassion, or evidence, or verifiable witness testimony.
It is sickening to encounter repeated racism and vilification of “The Other”, divisive attitudes finding voice among friends and neighbours in our communities, sometimes even being accepted by those who really are not racially motivated, but who perhaps fail to see that these prejudices allow much darker perspectives to begin to be given a platform for hateful discourse, where previously there was none. Don’t we all prefer to avoid the politics of anger and hatred and lies?
We don’t argue in favour of migration, but we certainly don’t see how you can argue against the fact of it. It exists. We argue for practical solutions, humanitarian compassion, justice and the rule of law. We stand against hatred, lawlessness, violence, misinformation and discrimination. It is not OK to misdirect your anger just because you feel powerless right now, we are in some of the most defining moments of our time, a global pandemic and the worst economic collapse in literally hundreds of years.
You do not enhance or progress your society by ignoring evidence, by looking for someone else to blame or by making it ok to just point at any particular group and make them all your scapegoat.
How we choose to move forward will define the future of our society, our communities, our children’s opportunities and the world we want to create, for better or for worse.
FYI: Here’s where we stand on a few other issues too:
Crime: Should be reported to and dealt with by the police. Who investigate and decide the best course of action.
Migrants: Should be treated with dignity and respect, if we expect them to return the favour. I have been an immigrant my whole life and am familiar with the territory.
Minors: Should be treated as children first, and given the opportunity to use their excess energy constructively, to learn and grow from the unusual experience they find themselves in. Where they come from is less important than where they are going. In our society they are children until they are 18.
Community: Should be working together to ensure we don’t get an ugly reputation for inhospitable attitudes. We are better and stronger than that.
Constantly Angry Men: Should check their facts, along with their injured egos, and try to act as responsible role models for future men, represent the sort of society we should want to promote, including the rule of law and caring for others. Name calling, abuse and violent behaviour pretty much have no place in solving any of our social issues, you don’t get your own way simply by being angry. Grow up.
Worried Women: Should take similar responsibility, helping to ensure that feelings of fear and protectiveness are kept in check, while constructiveness, practicality and compassion are promoted, there are few wilting flowers resident here, most women on Gran Canaria tend to be strong, forthright and intelligent, worldly-wise and all the more beautiful for it. You don’t survive long on a small sub-tropical island without that sort of get up and go.
Local Journalists: Should try to tell the truth at all times, even when it is unpopular, reveal the reality while promoting the values of a society they seek to inform and sometimes even have the privilege to represent. They should not repeat lies, parrot fashion, and instead look for evidence of facts, conscious of local concerns and feelings. Speaking truth to power is just as important as speaking truth to feelings of powerlessness. We document some small part of the lives around us.