- Reporting: Timon .:. Cover Image: Bård Ove Myhr
Spanish National Police have so far detained a total of around thirty people as part of a secret police operation, what is being termed as a macro-operation, against people trafficking and irregular migration, linked to the arrivals of open boats travelling from the West African coast to the Canary Islands, according to sources close to the investigation. A large deployment of heavily armed police wearing balaclavas and bullet proof vests, and carrying a large number of automatic weapons, assisted by Europol, on Friday, led to coordinated raids across the south of Gran Canaria, in particular the municipality of Mogán, and also on the island of Tenerife. A large number of arrests were made, many of the detainees were foreign residents who had lived here long enough to have already gained Spanish nationality, and among them a mixture of origins including Italians and Moroccans. The operation continues, and more deployments and arrests in the coming days have not been ruled out.
Policia Nacional accuse those detained of having committed a range of alleged crimes, related to the illegal trafficking of people, the organising of communications and travel in open boats, known as pateras and cayucos from various points along the coast of West Africa, to enable their irregular entry into the Archipelago, and thereby Spanish territories and Europe, in addition to the alleged trafficking in women, falsification of documents and providing migrants with fake passports with which to leave the Islands.
This still secret police operation against the traffickers began on Friday morning, with raids on several different tourist establishments and apartments throughout the south of Gran Canaria. Directed by the General Police Department for Immigration and Borders, agents were sent from Madrid, to act with the collaboration of the Maspalomas National Police Station and the Canary Islands Primary Police Command.
Different teams of agents simultaneously arrived in Mogán to serve warrants and carry out searches in establishments including hairdressers and beauty parlours, travel agencies and vacation homes, all in Arguineguín, Playa del Cura, Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria and Motor Grande.
The signs of the operation underway began at a hairdresser located on Calle Alcalde Paco González in Arguineguín, and then continued at another located in the Shopping Center Puerto Rico, both establishments owned by the same individual. Investigators also inspected the offices of a travel agency and raided tourism apartments located in Motor Grande, the upper area of Puerto Rico, and in Playa del Cura.
The raided premises, however, where not sealed off, and on Saturday life in the usually popular tourist resort towns returned pretty much to normal, with the exception of these shops and salons all being closed. The ongoing police investigation is currently under summary order of secrecy and so few details have yet emerged about the arrestees, the charges made against them, who else could be involved, nor their specific modus operandi.
This is not the first operation that the Policia Nacional have carried out on the Islands. Last year several illegal organisations, directly involved in human trafficking, were dismantled in Lanzarote, in a year in which an increase of tens of thousands of people have arrived on the Canary Islands. So far, in 2021, 6,122 migrants have entered Spain by sea up until March 31, 3,436 of them arriving on the coasts of the Canary Islands which is to say more than double the numbers that had arrived by this time last year, a 117% increase already in 2021, according to the biweekly report published by the Ministry of the Interior.