Monday, May 23

Older adults live with minors in reception centers due to the delay of the Immigration Prosecutor’s Office, saturated with files

The two men who allegedly abused a child in a center for unaccompanied foreign minors in Gran Canaria were adults. According to the anonymous complaint filed by the workers of Puerto Bello – an apartment complex in the south of Gran Canaria that was enabled as a reception center – when the events took place at the beginning of March, “it had already been certified that the two users were of legal age and they were pending transfer “. The saturation of all the organs that participate in the procedure for determining the age of the people who arrived in the Islands in boats and cayucos has pushed children and adults to live together in spaces reserved for migrant minors who arrive alone in the Canary Islands, “dynamiting “its smooth running.

The Government of the Canary Islands investigates alleged cases of sexual exploitation in a center for migrant minors in Gran Canaria

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At least six confirmed adults are still in juvenile centers waiting to be relocated to other adult resources, according to data from the Ministry of Social Rights. They are all in Gran Canaria. The Noemí Santana area has not confirmed the legal age of the alleged abusers. Nor does it assure that these events have occurred, which are already being investigated by the Las Palmas Prosecutor’s Office, which has already called the director of Puerto Bello and one of the workers who participated in the preparation of the report to testify.

Another 365 people are in limbo. They already have the tests done and also the age estimation report from the Institute of Legal Medicine. However, they are still waiting for the decree of the Prosecutor’s Office to determine what type of resource corresponds to them. The Immigration Prosecutor, Teseida García, explains that only she and another colleague are in charge of signing these decrees in the province of Las Palmas. “Once we decree the age, we notify the General Directorate for Child Protection, the Police, the Island Council, the Government Sub-delegation and the Prosecutor’s Office for Minors. With this decree, the General Directorate can place the person wherever he wants, “says García.

The Immigration Prosecutor has not offered the exact data of the decrees that have yet to be signed, but insists that the saturation is greater this year than the previous one. On June 30, the age decree 703 was signed. In 2020, this figure was reached in October. “Ideally, the entire age determination procedure takes a maximum of one month, but it is a utopia,” says García. The decrees are prepared between five and thirty minutes, but the entire previous process can take months. Between March and June 2020, no age test was carried out due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing a plug that softened in the following months.

Now, Garcia demands “much more” to assess a test. The Foreigners Prosecutor asks that, through the General Directorate, they be informed of all changes that have occurred in the declarations of minors in relation to their age. When in doubt, summon the migrants to listen to them. “You have to be careful. We recently had a case of a boy who claimed to be 20 years old, presented a birth certificate that was not his and his proof of age concluded that he was 15.”

The Government of the Canary Islands has demanded on multiple occasions that the Prosecutor’s Office increase the necessary means to expedite the decrees of majority. In a meeting that took place in February between the Ministry, the Government Delegation and the Office of the Foreigners Prosecutor, it was agreed to prioritize some 300 over those who had no doubts and were “clearly older”, as well as another 300 evidence of cases that offered reasonable doubts, since people could be between 17 and 24 years old.

Regarding the responsibility for these age mismatches, Teseida García defends that the Prosecutor’s Office “does not see the migrants” until it calls them to delve into their age. For her, filiation at the foot of the port is essential, because “whoever locates these presumed minors is the one who makes the first decision.” “It is important to have responsibility and people trained at that time.” This task corresponds to the National Police, which performs the review with the main data of newly arrived migrants. To increase the precision in age, the Government of the Canary Islands asked the Ministry of the Interior for the presence of the organization specialized in childhood Save the children during this first interview, but Fernando Grande-Marlaska rejected the proposal justifying himself in the pandemic.

It is also the National Police that alerts the Prosecutor’s Office of the arrival of alleged minors. Then, the prosecutor must order their admission to a center for unaccompanied children. In other cases, these errors lead minors to live in adult macro-centers. In these cases, it is the workers who must contact the Justice.

Chronology of the Puerto Bello case

On June 15, the leak of an anonymous complaint sent by the workers of Puerto Bello to the Mogán City Council and the General Directorate of Child Protection brought to light alleged cases of sexual exploitation, abuse and physical attacks in this resource. According to the report, employees of the center had evidence in early March that a minor “of about 15 years” had suffered “repeated sexual assaults by two of the users of the center.” They also knew that “at least one of the minors had practiced prostitution both within the center with other minors and outside the center with outsiders” to the resource.

On May 31, through an email, the workers brought these alleged crimes to the attention of the Canary Government and the Mogán City Council. Ten days later, the Ministry of Social Rights ordered an inspection in Puerto Bello and two technicians from the area visited the facilities. According to the Ministry, these abuses could not be confirmed, but they did observe the poor condition of the facilities as a result of some fights that caused damage to the furniture and they perceived a feeling of exhaustion among the staff. For this reason, they began to relocate the migrants to bring the closure, scheduled for August, to July.

On June 15, when the case jumped to the media, the mayor of Mogán, Onalia Bueno, went to the Las Palmas Prosecutor’s Office to request that they investigate these alleged sexual crimes. A week later the round of statements in the investigation phase of the alleged blow in Mogán began, which will last until July 12 and in which the ten investigated for the alleged purchase of votes in the 2015 and 2019 elections and also 18 witnesses.

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