Interior of one of the ex-bank branches. | Alejandro Sepúlveda

The National Police say that six former bank branches in Palma have been taken over by violent groups of young squatters. One of these is by the headquarters of the Palma police on Avda. Sant Ferran, where trouble has been reported in recent days by local residents. The others are on C. Pascual Ribot, C. General Riera, C. Blanquerna and C. Manacor and along the Avenidas.

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The police explain that these groups aren't part of some type of organised 'mafia' but that they all tend to conform to a similar pattern, one that involves making a profit from the squats. They typically attract young people who have absconded from detention centres or simply left places operated by social services. Initially, they don't charge 'rent', but later they do. This is the business. As also is the sale of drugs, while there is the spectre of prostitution. The gangs are Spanish, Latino, and north African.

Local residents say there is constant noise and that there are also threats. One man, who has been unable to sleep properly for months, says that he was told that if they "caught me alone on the street, they would slash me". "It's incredible that this happens in the centre of Palma. I no longer know what world we live in."