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Lies and hoaxes spread fear encouraging anti-migrant opinions and the rhetoric of hate

Lies and hoaxes spread fear encouraging anti-migrant opinions and the rhetoric of hate

On Monday afternoon yet another hoax was spread across various social networks claiming that one of the victims involved in the attack in a San Fernando car park, on the south of Gran Canaria, had died. However, the man who was assaulted, who is thought to be a longterm resident, possibly homeless, and who these fake reports say has died, actually got up on his own and left the scene of the attack caught on video. Those at the scene told Spanish language daily, La Provincia, that the man declined medical attention from the emergency services when they had arrived at the scene, having been deployed there by the main 112 emergency coordination centre. Lies and hoaxes have increased over recent months, and are repeatedly shared, making it difficult to discern the facts, with more and more willing to ignore the actual truth rather than deal with the reality of an already difficult situation.

The brutal altercation itself was recorded on video by a local resident who witnessed the attack. The video, which quickly went viral, shows two men approach two others, whom they then viciously attack in the Plaza de El Hierro, in San Fernando de Maspalomas. One of the victims falls to the ground due to the blows and head butts he receives. Despite a Canary Islands Emergency Service (SUC) ambulance  being deployed to the scene, no one involved ended up being treated.

The apparently unprovoked attack occurred at around 3:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon, and the Emergency and Security Coordination Centre (Cecoes) 112 received a report that there were several people involved in the brawl, somewhere between 8 or 9 people in total, and it was reported that they had knives, though no evidence for this has been presented. In the video spread across social media, two people attack two others and begin to strike them, punching and kicking, causing one of the victims to fall to the ground apparently semi-conscious.  There is no-one who thinks that this sort of behaviour is permissible, nor can it be defended. These were criminal acts and must be dealt with accordingly.  However, spreading lies and hoaxes and fear can in no way help with that task, it only further confuses the issues.

The Canary Islands Emergency Service (SUC) simply returned to base as none of those involved needed medical attention, according to 112.

The Policia Nacional also attended seeking witness statements, though the perpetrators had already left the scene and police are now actively looking for those involved.  Police presence last night was noticeably increased throughout the San Fernando and Playa del Inglés area, with patrol cars actively stopping groups of more than four pedestrians to inquire as to their business. 

Separating truth from fear 

Local mayor Conchi Navarrez last week responded to unsubstantiated reports on social media by calling a security meeting, for this Tuesday morning, inviting senior law enforcement and those involved in accommodating migrants in the local area to discuss and analyse reports of disturbances, while encouraging local residents to report any incidents or suspected criminality through the correct official channels, rather than solely posting or sharing to social media sites.  She has called for all reports to be properly investigated and any criminality among migrant arrivals to be quickly dealt with through expulsion.

There has been a very worrying and serious increase in false, often patently untrue and misleading imagery, shared across the social networks, which can only further complicate the job of law enforcement.  Some of the anti-migrant rhetoric is also fed by wholly irresponsible headlines from websites posing as news outlets.  It must stop, if we and those tasked with protecting our security are to properly know and understand the true scale of any problems that occur.

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