The Second Section of the Las Palmas Provincial Court this Tuesday will hear the case of one Ahmed Haison who, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, was at the heart of the serious incidents that occurred in the Puerto Bello apartments, in the tourism enclave of Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, after being transferred to the temporary facility used to accommodate unaccompanied minors, having arrived on the island of Gran Canaria by open boat.
Accompanied by several minors, the defendant is accused of having rampaged through the building, breaking windows, throwing objects, frightening caretakers and having threatened Guardia Civil agents who arrived at the scene. The damage caused was valued at more than €10,000, for which he faces a possible sentence of up to five years in prison, a fine of €7,200 and payment of damages.
According to the prosecutor, the accused – a Moroccan citizen, in an irregular situation in Spain – committed these alleged actions around 10:30 p.m. on February 8, 2021, with the “intent of seriously disturbing the peace and tranquility of the rest of centre’s residents.”
In the face of unprecedented numbers of migrant arrivals, unable to leave the island during pandemic restrictions, Puerto Bello apartments, owned by Hermanos Medina La Herradura, were being managed by a Social Response NGO appointed by the Canary Islands department of social services, whose task it was to care for the children and manage the facility as a temporary “shelter for unaccompanied foreign minors.”
Haison, carrying a wooden bed leg, and accompanied several youths carrying chains, wooden sticks and broken glass, “intimidated those residents of the complex who would not join their revolt, causing a massive disturbance in the centre and urging the other residents to join in,” says the Public Ministry. He was followed “by about 20 minors residing at the centre.”
During the events, the accused is said to have “caused damage on every floor of the Puerto Bello complex”, breaking glass in the doors and windows, all kinds of furniture and appliances, electrical outlets and light sockets. They threw various objects including microwaves, chairs and tables from the balconies of the rooms. The little gang, allegedly led by Haison, caused “the educators [present] at that time, to have to hide in a room on the lower floor, to avoid being injured”, waiting for the arrival of the Guardia Civil.
Once the agents did arrive at the scene, they observed the erection of “barricades built with chairs, microwaves and glass on the floor” and “soapy water spilled on it”, in an attempt to prevent their access. Haison “along with the minors who followed him”, upon seeing the Guardia Civil’s approach acted with “intent to attack them”. They showed “aggressiveness, disorder and apprehension” and threw “various objects at the agents, such as full water bottles and small appliances, putting their lives in danger, without achieving any impact against the agents.”
These facts, listed by the prosecutor, constitute a crime of public disorder, along with a competing crime of affray. The prosecutor has requested that, if Haison is convicted, he be expelled from the country as soon as he is granted parole.
This was the single worst disturbance to have occurred during the 9 months or so that these facilities were in operation as a temporary shelter. Though there were other much less serious incidents, this night became the focal point for many of the anti-migrant protesters who insisted that events like these were occurring on a “nightly” basis.
All tourist hotels had been empty due to the pandemic, and a huge increase in migrant arrivals created an unprecedented situation with people arriving to the shores of Gran Canaria, unable to leave, continue on elsewhere or be returned to their points of origin. 15 or so hotels in the south volunteered their facilities to be used temporarily so as to alleviate the high pressure situation on the Arguineguín harbour pier, which had made headlines around the world.
Included in this influx of more than twenty three thousand were two and a half thousand unaccompanied minors, which in turn saturated the social care system.
The individual involved in this case was already suspected, due to his appearance, to be one of several migrants who had falsely claimed to be minors, in an attempt to circumvent the usual procedures for adults. Age verification tests, due to the lengthy process involved, could not be carried out fast enough.
This incident was less than two weeks after a much smaller occurrence at another facility in the same town, which some observers suspect may have, theoretically, been instigated by either the same individual, or individuals with whom he had contact, who subsequently moved to the Puerto Bello, where the anti-social behaviour was repeated by inciting a number of youths to join with the disturbances, and using threats of violence.
The facility was eventually closed following a coordinated campaign of misinformation and half truths, various complaints from residents and thus-far unsubstantiated accusations of serious impropriety at the facility, which finally led to an investigation. The full facts about the actual events within the facility are only just now starting to emerge with this attempt to prosecute the individual who led the rampage through the building on the evening of February 8 2021. This is likely to be the most visible prosecution following this brief episode in Puerto Rico’s history, the man thought to have been responsible for disrupting the NGO’s work in protecting children who arrived to these islands without any other adult supervision.
As for the business of the town, tourism has returned incrementally through the start of Spring, as pandemic restrictions have been relaxed, and many predict a bumper summer ahead for holiday makers arriving from across the UK, and other areas of Northern Europe.