Local Police, shopowners and town hall representatives in Benalmádena have been meeting this week to agree a plan of action for the summer to combat and police the annual influx of illegal street sellers, in many cases undocumented immigrants from west Africa, that locals say has become intolerable.
President of the Benalmádena shoptraders' association, Rosa María González, said this week that, “tourist resorts shouldn't tolerate this [bad] image, with the seafront clogged up [with sellers] and frequent arrests and police chases”.
“We've been asking for months for budget to be made available so the town hall can pay overtime to police, as they are not allowed to increase the total number of officers.”
In a report on the situation, compiled by the Local Police chief, officers are asking to be allowed by central government to recruit more officers. Benalmádena council, which is responsible for the Local Police, has its hands tied by rules that prevent it temporarily increasing the force for the peak summer months, when the municipality's population trebles with the number of tourists.
The local force says that the sellers of goods on the seafront are becoming increasingly self-confident and causing more disruption. Last summer 5,665 items were seized by police before they could be sold.
“At the start, [the sellers] followed police instructions without resisting, then they started to flee and dump the merchandise, but now many cases of them resisting are coming to light and also acting aggressively, which is causing officers to go off sick and injured,” explains the document.
Last year, local authorities met with representatives of the Senegalese immigrant community, which is where the biggest group of sellers comes from, to offer other options, such as setting up a cooperative or a street market in another area. However many sellers are illegal immigrants and the groups have been reluctant to give up the sale of profitable fake-branded goods.