Three vans of the Civil Guard and two cars of the Local Police blocked during the afternoon of this Saturday the entrance of one of the hotels that shelters hundreds of migrants in Mogán (Gran Canaria), where about thirty neighbors concentrated hours before between shouts of “Moors out! They’re going to pay, you bastards! Abusers!” The deployment sought to protect the people taken in after the xenophobic upsurge unleashed in Arguineguín, the town that housed the so-called “camp of shame” in the port for months. This Saturday, the police presence has withdrawn, but migrants are hardly seen in the town: the xenophobic protest has forced the Red Cross to recommend a 48-hour confinement of the nearly 6,000 migrants it welcomes in Gran Canaria, at the request of the security forces, given the “risk of attacks”, as confirmed by the organization to elDiario.es.
“We have been asked not to let them leave the hotels”, explains José Javier Sánchez Espinosa, deputy director of Social Inclusion at the Red Cross, who recalls that these people are at liberty, so they cannot be forced to stay in the hotel . “We have spoken with them, it has been explained to them that the situation is tense and, if they go out, it may pose a risk for them, so that they know that they can face harassment, insults …”, he adds. The recommendation to keep them in detention due to the risk of new xenophobic outbreaks extends to the 12 hotels where the Red Cross houses migrants in Gran Canaria, a warning addressed to around 6,000 people, although the organization shows a “special insistence” on the establishments located in the municipality of Mogán.
The NGO, which manages most of the reception places in the Archipelago, has also advised migrants and their staff “maximum prudence” in case of colliding with new attacks: “We have asked them not to engage in provocations and, if necessary worrying, we will transfer it to the Police and the Civil Guard. ”
“I understand that we entered illegally, but I did nothing to harm them.”
In one of the hotels that house migrants in the south of Gran Canaria, one of the confined Moroccans explains that he will comply with the Red Cross warning: “We cannot leave today and tomorrow because there are protesters who insult immigrants,” said Mohamed * by WhatsApp this Saturday to elDiario.es from inside the center. “I understand that we entered their land illegally, but I did nothing to harm them. We ventured our lives in the middle of the sea to improve our standard of living and that is not a crime,” continues the man, who admits that he is more afraid of possible deportation. that of the xenophobic protests: “My real fear is to return to Morocco, I have risked a lot to be here.”
The anti-immigration protest that emerged this Saturday sought to “stand up to immigrants” and “take charge of the problem,” according to the social media posts of the Arguineguín Neighborhood Platform, which has been publishing messages that connect immigration with crime for weeks. About thirty residents of Arguineguín held an anti-immigration march through different parts of the town, arriving at the gates of the migrant center, in front of the gaze of several people welcomed and the hotel staff.
Contradictory versions of the trigger
A fight unleashed this Wednesday in the tourist area of Anfi del Mar between a young Canarian and a group of migrant minors and their educator – of Spanish nationality and Moroccan origin – ignited tension among the residents of Arguineguín, after the episode was broadcast on the Vox Las Palmas social networks, which only had one version of the events. According to his story, the Canarian boy was attacked by the minors and his caregiver for defending a woman whom the group had allegedly rebuked.
For his part, the caretaker assures that it was the young Canary who began to insult the minors, with whom he had gone for a walk through the town. “The boy began to insult the minors. He told them ‘Moors, migrant traffickers, and that they came to bring hashish,” Khalihanna Largat, brother of the educator, explains to elDiario.es. The only one detained at the moment is the caregiver of the minors for a crime of injuries, but the Civil Guard investigates a possible subsequent aggression suffered by the educator at the health center where he received health care after the fight, which is portrayed in another video spread on social networks, according to sources from the Armed Institute.
The fight lit the fuse of an anti-immigration sentiment that had been brewing in the town of Arguineguín, which became a symbol of the Canarian migration crisis due to the emergency camp set up by Interior on the town’s dock, which came to house more than 2,000 people in crowded and unsanitary conditions. “When you light a spark in a powder keg, what happens happens,” says Luis, one of the neighbors who participated in the rally held outside the migrant center. Through different WhatsApp groups and social networks, many videos of alleged neighbors have been disseminated, especially in recent days, telling in front of the camera alleged attacks suffered by migrants.
The perception of the neighbors
Among a part of the residents of the town there is a perception of the increase in crime from the conditioning of one of the hotels in Arguineguín as a center for emergency migrants, a feeling that does not correspond to reality, according to the Mogán City Council. , led by Onalia Bueno.
At 9 pm, in a bar located in a central town square, María * talks with some friends minutes before starting her shift as a cleaner. The woman, from A Coruña but living in Arguineguín for 30 years, claims to be “concerned” about the arrival of migrants to the town. “Before I left the doors open, now I don’t dare, I close them. I have little daughters and I’m afraid that they will come back alone at night,” says the woman, who nevertheless admits that she does not know any crime episodes firsthand, but rather that everything has “read or heard” on social networks. The messages are pervasive but many do not know how to detail how the arrival of immigrants directly affects their lives.
Edu, 17, stops by the bar to greet his uncle during the afternoon of the protest. This teenager, a business student, claims not to have heard of the neighborhood march that rebuked the migrants. “Many people mix things up. I think they have the right to come and that, if there is someone who has done something wrong, then they will have to judge that one, not all of them. There are also bad Canarian people.”, Says the boy, who admits often argue with your uncle and grandmother about immigration.
His uncle makes it clear in advance that he thinks differently from the boy before beginning to state his position. If he has attended the rally it is because, he says, he is “against illegal immigration.” And also for alleged acts of vandalism that have reached him through social networks, such as the fight unleashed last Wednesday in Anfi del Mar. “We wanted to tell them that they have to respect us, that they cannot come to abuse,” says the man, dedicated to the hotel business but currently unemployed, who insists on remembering that the town of Arguineguín is not racist, since it is a town characterized “by multiculturalism.”
The mayor of Mogán has released a statement to “reject the forms used by participating neighbors” in the protest this Saturday and has requested “to act responsibly and to remain calm.” According to the councilor, “this outbreak of irritation may be the effect of more than four months of tension accumulated by neighbors since the migratory crisis began. However, this does not justify what happened. Violence and hatred are never the answer. “.
* The names of migrants and residents of Arguineguín are fictitious because the interviewees preferred to speak anonymously.