The protest in Son Gotleu on Friday last week. | Pascual Ribot


Since established communities in Palma's Son Gotleu vowed to expel problematic young Algerians from the neighbourhood, the number of arrests of Algerians has decreased dramatically. The National and Palma Police had been recording between ten and fifteen arrests per day. The number has come down to one or zero.

The Algerian men, the majority of them aged around 20, started to settle in Son Gotleu some four months ago. Crime went up - break-ins, muggings, violent assaults - and was attributed to the Algerians. Matters came to a head on Monday last week when riot police had to be called in because of clashes. A protest demanding the expulsion of the Algerians from the district then followed.

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They stayed off the streets and now most, if not all, would seem to have moved to Arenal in Llucmajor, where residents are expressing their concerns.

The Spanish gypsy community in Son Gotleu was to the fore in demanding the expulsions. It has said that if the Algerians return, they will be "lynched". "If the judges and the police do not act, we will have no choice but to do so."

The police were acutely aware that the conflict could lead to these young men going somewhere else. Which is what has happened. Other than arresting them and hoping the courts order them to prison, the police (and indeed the courts) are hampered by the fact that Spain and Algeria have broken off diplomatic relations. Expulsion from Spain and repatriation to Algeria is currently not possible.