A mayor in Gran Canaria has accused hotel owners of profiting from housing the large number of immigrants in their rooms rather than catering for tourists.
Onalia Bueno, the mayor of Mogan in Gran Canaria, said the Canary Islands are going through one of the worst immigration crises in recent years.
Mogan is well known for its beaches and nightlife among British holidaymakers to the south of the Spanish island.
The town of Arguineguin in the municipality is famous for being the birthplace of former Manchester City footballer David Silva, 35.
Bueno told the newspaper Diario de Avisos that the current situation is “unsustainable” as the municipality of Mogan is currently housing 2,800 immigrants and nearly 600 unaccompanied minors which is the “highest proportion in the island of Gran Canaria”.
She claims the reason for that is a deal between local hotel owners and the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration.
The deal means their facilities can be used to house the thousands of immigrants who landed on island beaches.
Bueno had previously taken legal action giving hotel owners until 31st December to relocate the immigrants and leave the establishments ready for tourists.
She said: “We are starting the paperwork to sanction the hotel establishments for failing to follow the Land Law and the Canary Islands Tourism Renewal Law. It is true that one, Arguineguin Park, does not have a first occupation licence.
“A government official has promised to send the first group of people set for relocation from a new hotel which has housed 900 immigrants.
The sanctions could vary between EUR 6,001 to 150,000 (GBP 5314 to 132,844) as well as “the added cost of the damage” done to their facilities.
The mayor accused hotel owners of taking advantage of the deal with the ministry as they make more money given the monthly cost of rent and maintenance compared to what they would make with tour operators.
She added: “They don’t take anyone out of ERTE [unemployment] because it is all managed by NGOs or foundations. The ministry hires people of legal age while the Ministry of Social Rights exercises its duties with the unaccompanied minors.”
Bueno said in the last two weeks, a restaurant was robbed three different times in a single day, adding that there are growing safety concerns in the municipality.
She added: “Immigrants are the ones who don’t comply (with COVID-19 measures). They don’t cover their faces with masks, they don’t obey the curfew.”
For now, Bueno has asked the government to keep a Reserve and Security Group (GRS) unit from the armed forces at Mogan, adding that the 55 Civil Guard agents are not enough to handle the “increasing” number of incidents.
So far, she said she has not received an answer from the government for her request to stop allowing hotels to break tourism and urban regulations.
Bueno said: “The hope is that the immigrants are relocated to military camps and everything in the municipality goes back to normal so that the few tourists willing to travel can come here.
“Mogan’s most frequent visitors keep asking me if the immigrants are still in the hotels.”