Minors continue to be moved from Puerto Rico while prosecutors investigate anonymous allegations
The Las Palmas Provincial Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into accusations of alleged sexual assaults against at least one minor and reports of three individuals having been involved in prostitution at the temporary reception centre for unaccompanied migrant minors, who have been accommodated in the Puerto Bello apartment complex, in the tourist town of Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, after taking a statement from the director of the facilities and having verified that eleven of the MENAs are unaccounted for. Over the next few days workers and the minors at the accommodation will be summoned to verify the facts.
In parallel, the Government of the Canary Islands has begun the transfer of migrant minors to other facilities in Mogán and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and the Prosecutor’s Office has joined the south western Town Council to insist on the need to end the use of the Puerto Bello temporary facility. The anonymous complaint, which reportedly originated from workers at the facility, alleged sexual assaults on one of the children, as well as potential involvement in prostitution by three both inside and outside the building.
Presenting the allegations, sent to the Mogán Council, in which anonymous employees report alleged sexual assaults and numerous irregularities in the operation of the centre, the Prosecutor’s Office took a statement yesterday from the person in charge of the Social Response Foundation Siglo XXI, the entity that manages that centre, and decided to initiate investigation proceedings.
The Guardia Civil also announced that they will investigate the veracity of the facts, reported anonymously by sources who say they are workers at the centre, and pointed out that until now they only had evidence of altercations and incidents involving minors interned within the centre, but never sexual abuse or other irregularities like those that are included in the anonymous report.
The Government of the Canary Islands, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Civil Guard have all expressed their surprise at the way in which these alleged crimes, against minors in custody, have been reported, since there is no official complaint, either in writing or verbal, from the workers, despite the seriousness of the events narrated in the communication to the Town Council. In this regard, the sources consulted by La Provincia explained that all employees working for the foundation that manages the Puerto Bello temporary resource, as well as the migrant minors who have been recognised, as accused or as victims of these attacks, will probably be called to testify.
The Guardia Civil confirm there was evidence last week of nine minors, out of the 120 migrants currently accommodated at these facilities, having escaped, the director of the centre has now raised the number of children unaccounted for to eleven. Among these escapees is a boy who was alleged to be a victim of “repeated sexual assaults” at the hands of two others, who according to the anonymous complainants had remained in that apartment complex despite the fact that they were already known to be of legal age at the time of the reported assaults.
The Prosecutor’s Office said on Tuesday that they have repeatedly urged the Canary Islands Government General Directorate of Minors to transfer the minors provisionally sheltered at these apartments in Mogán. In fact, incidents that have been known about, such as fights, damage to furniture or insults to monitors, among others, have been processed with some having led to the adoption of legal measures against the perpetrators.
Speaking to Spanish News Agency Efe, spokeswoman Beatriz Sánchez pointed out that she is aware that the regional government intends to relocate these minors to a more suitable centre.
The Government of the Canary Islands, having concluded their initial internal investigation by the Directorate General for Children, has filed a formal complaint both with the Juvenile Unit of the Policia Canaria and with the Prosecutor’s Office, in order to communicate the anonymous allegations, Social Rights Minister, Noemí Santana, told journalists.
The complaint includes possible names and importantly does not establish a time limit on the investigation of the facts, referring to deficiencies found in the centre. The Minister said that her department will act “with force” in the face of the events denounced, although she clarified that the ones who must resolve it are “the Police and the Prosecutor’s Office.”
The regional government will follow through on these actions and will seek to know “in any case if it is found that there are indications of these crimes.” In her opinion, her department has done “what it had to do, bring [the investigation to] the attention of the police and the justice system.”
Santana says that she has been asking for many months that the priority was to be able to close the temporary facilities located in tourist accommodation, as well as that she has repeatedly pointed out that this type of accommodation “was not suitable to be able to house children and adolescents.”
She justified that decision in view of the “humanitarian immigration emergency that the Archipelago experienced, with more than 2,700 children under the care of the Autonomous Community, something that has never happened in [our] history, these facilities had to be used.”
The Minister stressed that they started transferring minors in May to other more suitable resources and pointed out that in the month of May one of these tourist accommodations, the Tamanaco, was closed completely in Mogán, and in the case of Puerto Bello, since June 1 transfers of minors to other centres began in the Canary Islands or to the Peninsula.
This temporary accommodation in Mogán, Minister Santana said, had had about 170 wards at the time. Currently there are 121 still there, although following this statement it is thought another 43 boys were moved yesterday evening to other resources in the Community, she hopes for the Puerto Bello’s “total closure in the month of July, probably the middle of July”, along with two others that remain in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
The mayor of Mogán, O Bueno, yesterday took the received complaints alleging sexual assault and prostitution to the Prosecutor’s Office. The Town Council, in a note, published “how an educational technical assistant reported that a group of minors has reported the repeated sexual assaults that a minor has suffered – identified even by his initials – by two other users housed in the centre already certified as of legal age.”
“It also seems that the minor attacked has had to escape to avoid such situations and the humiliation of his companions for what happened. An assistant on the night shift came to indicate the existence of videos of sexual assaults and made sure that several minors also reported what had happened” says the Town Council’s official complaint. It has been requested that the centre increases staff numbers on the night shift.
Repeated and unjustified psychological and physical attacks on young people were also reported, ranging from insults and harassment, to intimidation and physical restraint, placing a knee on the neck of minors or practicing “naked strangulation”.
The anonymous workers email details other types of negligence, such as a lack of medical care for minors who need psychiatric treatment or those who require antibiotics, as well as the non-existent anti-Covid-19 protocols. Likewise, poor living conditions due to the altercations that have occurred in recent months and the poor condition of the electricity and water supply facilities.