News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 2nd November - 8th November 2006
Programme seeks tip-offs to help catch UK criminals on the Costa del Sol
By Oliver McIntyre
THE HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL CRIMESTOPPERS PROGRAMME HAS LAUNCHED ITS FIRST EVER CAMPAIGN AIMED AT CATCHING UK CRIMINALS HIDING OUT ON THE COSTA. The UK charity is hoping that expats living in the area will be able to provide anonymous tips leading to the capture of fugitives who may be living among the foreign-resident community. "We want to reach out to the law-abiding British expat community in Spain who may unknowingly be living next door to a wanted criminal," said Dave Cording, Crimestoppers' director of operations, launching the programme earlier this week in Málaga. "Despite law enforcement efforts, these criminals are living a charmed life in Spain and avoiding arrest - some are still committing serious crimes." UK officials estimate that there are between 300,000 and 350,000 Britons living in the Andalucía region, said Rachel James of the British Embassy in Madrid. While there are no figures on the possible number of wanted criminals among that population, Crimestoppers has started with 10 individuals that UK law enforcement has reason to believe may be hiding out on the Costa del Sol. WEBSITE MUG SHOTS Information about the criminals, along with a photo of each of them, is posted on Crimestoppers' website (www.mostwanted-uk.org). Costa residents can review the information and, if they believe they have useful information, can give a completely anonymous tip either online or by calling a free phone number (900 555 111) in Spain that is answered in the UK by Crimestoppers call handlers. The wanted criminals include murderers, drug traffickers, counterfeiters and fraudsters. One, James Hurley, is described as "the only convicted murderer of a police officer in the UK who is on the run." Crimestoppers has worked together with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British and Spanish law enforcement to launch the three-month pilot project on the Costa. Depending on the results, the programme may be extended and possibly expanded. GETTING RESULTS Since it began in 1988, Crimestoppers has received over 850,000 calls, leading to more than 75,000 arrests, the recovery of property valued at over £95 million and the seizure of more than £130 million worth of drugs, said Mr Cording. Last year alone it received more than 75,000 calls in the UK, leading to the arrest of more than 6,000 people. He urged expats to participate in the programme and help root out British criminals on the Costa. "No one will know you called, except you," he said.
Doctor transfers affect 200,000 patients on costa
More than 100 GPs and paediatricians switching health centres
By Oliver McIntyre
MORE THAN 200,000 PEOPLE IN THE COSTA REGION COULD FIND THEMSELVES WITH A NEW GENERAL PRACTITIONER OR PAEDIATRICIAN THIS MONTH WHEN DOCTORS TRANSFER TO DIFFERENT HEALTH CENTRES.
The transfers are due to the Andalucía Health Service (SAS) granting permanent status to 378 doctors – around a quarter of all the province’s GPs and paediatricians – who have until now been on temporary contracts. The process will mean a transfer to a different centre for 131 of the doctors, some of them to other provinces in Andalucía. Each doctor has an estimated patient load of 1,500, and for those who are transferring within the province, their move will affect additional patients at the centre they are moving to.
Málaga city will see the greatest number of affected patients – around 150,000 – with 101 doctors having received transfer orders. Next hardest hit is the Costa del Sol district to the west of the capital, with 21 transfers. Five doctors are being transferred from their posts in the Axarquía and four in the Guadalhorce Valley.
While the shuffle will have an impact on both doctors and patients, some of whom have had an ongoing healthcare relationship for years, in the long term the measure is aimed at providing more stability, say officials. The fact that so many doctors were on temporary contracts meant frequent transfers for many of them, affecting both patients and the doctors who often found themselves suddenly assigned to a health centre many miles away from where they lived. One doctor recently said that in the last eight years he had worked at 12 different health centres, from the Guadalhorce Valley to the Axarquía. The transfers are to take place throughout the month of November. SAS says it recognises that the changes may pose an inconvenience for some patients and asks for “the maximum understanding and collaboration from the public.” Most important, it says, the process “will not affect the normal operating of the health centres, which will continue to be served by highly qualified professionals.”
More three-year-olds go walkabout
By Dave Jamieson
Less than a month after a toddler escaped from a La Cala del Moral school and was found wandering on along the motorway, two similar incidents have been reported.
A three-year-old boy walked out of the Los Ángeles school in the Málaga district of La Roca and wandered through streets and parks for 10 minutes until his disappearance was noted and a search was launched, according to the parents’ association. Silvia Montes says that in this latest case, which allegedly happened three weeks ago, the child crossed a road and wandered into a park, although the Junta de Andalucía denies that he actually left the school grounds.
Sra Montes added the school’s director had told them that the monitor responsible on the day of the incident had resigned and that other monitors had written a letter of support to the director. The school is also reported to have amended its routine to keep its doors closed until 14.00, when parents arrive to collect their children. Previously, the doors were opened at 13.50 and it was reportedly in that 10-minute gap that the toddler was able to wander off.In a separate case in Nerja, two three-year-old girls wandered out of the San Miguel state school, crossed the street at zebra crossing where two policemen were directing traffic, and entered a nearby park. As in the Málaga case, they were gone for about 10 minutes before being missed. A woman in the park saw them wandering alone and took them to the police officers, who returned them to the school. Both the girls were unharmed. The school’s directors say that measures have been taken to prevent such an incident from occurring again, including the separating the children who stay at school for lunch from those whose parents come to pick them up, thus preventing mix-ups in the crowd of children at the exit.
UK nationals 'in loneliness and poverty'
Overseas retirees often make little or no provisions for the future
By Dave Jamieson
THE BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE LAST WEEK EXPRESSED CONCERN THAT THOUSANDS OF BRITISH CITIZENS DREAMS OF A PARADISE RETIREMENT IN SPAIN END UP IN LONELINESS AND POVERTY.
As a result, its information campaign, spearheaded by Bruce McIntyre, the British consul in Málaga, is being actively promoted.
Steve Jewitt-Fleet of the Foreign Office said in London on Thursday that it was astonishing how many fit and healthy retirees make no plans or provisions of any kind for their future health and wellbeing when they retire abroad. He explained, “The majority of British nationals do not register with local authorities when they move and often the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) only hear about these people when they get into serious difficulties.” He stressed that the department was not trying to warn people off retiring overseas, but wanted to advise them to make sensible precautions in order to enjoy their retirement abroad.”
In Málaga, Mr McIntyre confirmed these views. “We spend much of our time dealing with elderly British nationals who moved out here ten or fifteen years ago and now cannot manage alone. Sometimes a partner has died and the other is too old or infirm to go out and buy food; sometimes people have made bad property investments or have not budgeted their pensions sufficiently and are living in extreme poverty.” He added that many British retirees do not realise that not many European countries have welfare provisions like the UK, adding that there are often, “no old people’s homes, no district nursing, community care or meals on wheels. We provide help where we can but there are just a few steps you can take to ensure that it doesn’t come to this.”
As part of its ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign launched in 2001, the Foreign Office has produced a guide called ‘Going To Live Abroad’ which includes recommendations to thoroughly research the proposed destination, its local laws and customs, as a priority. It says that finances and tax obligations must be clearly understood, while registering with the local town hall will help with access to welfare and health services.The booklet is available at www.fco.gov.uk/travel while further information and help on planning a move to Spain can be found at the UK Government’s website, www.direct.gov.uk.
Guadalhorce to have full fire coverage in 2007
By Oliver McIntyre
The Guadalhorce Valley will have complete firefighting coverage from the beginning of next year as the result of several projects currently underway, say officials. Local town halls, the provincial government and the Junta de Andalucía are working together to establish a multi-faceted firefighting service for the area.
The main hub is the new 700-square-metre station currently under construction in Coín. It will house 30 firefighters and serve a population of 115,000 in towns throughout the valley, with an expected 50 callouts a month. This central station will be reinforced by a squad in Alhaurín de la Torre, which has already been created but is currently housed in temporary quarters and does not operate 24 hours a day. The Junta de Andalucía has plans in place for the construction of a permanent station in Viñagrande for the force. Coverage in the northern part of the valley will be reinforced by an 18-person fire department in Álora currently being planned by the provincial government. In addition, the squad located in the La Molina industrial park is to get nine new firefighters, giving a strong boost to the existing force, which consists of civil defence volunteers.
Cuevas del Becerro strikes against urban develop
The 24-hour protest brought together residents, ecologists and social groups
By David Eade
ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL GROUPS IN THE SERRANÍA DE RONDA THAT HAVE WORKED HARD TO HALT THE URBAN-DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS AT MERINOS AND PARCHITE OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, HAVE NOW RECEIVED THE WHOLE-HEARTED BACKING OF CUEVAS DEL BECERRO RESIDENTS.
The town demonstrated its opposition to the building plans last week, by holding a general strike in protest against the potential damage the developments could have on the local water aquifers that supply 10,000 people in Cuevas del Becerro and the nearby communities of Arriate, La Cimada, Los Prados, Serrato and Setenil. There are also fears that around 5,000 ancient cork oaks will be felled.
The luxury developments have the full backing of Ronda town hall within whose municipal boundaries they fall. However they are some 12- kilometres north-east of the town and on the boundary with Cuevas del Becerro in an area of the Serranía de Ronda that is a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Ecologists, social groups and residents of Cuevas del Becerro believe that these developments will not only have a negative impact on their local water supply but also affect the flora, fauna and scenery. It was these reasons that brought them together outside the doors of the Cuevas del Becerro town hall for the start of the 24-hour protest.The local opposition to the proposed golf course and residential-hotel development of Merinos Norte has been the focus of protests for some time. Slightly overshadowed by this have been other projects such at the high-speed car racetrack at Merinos Sur, the Arriate by-pass and the planned golf course and urban development of 200 homes at La Parchite. Local people believe that all of these will have a serious impact both on their water supplies and the environment.
Benalmádena and Fuengirola in border dispute
By Oliver McIntyre
Benalmádena town hall is disputing the inclusion of 74,500 square metres of land in the Reserva del Higuerón urbanisation in Fuengirola’s new local development plan (PGOU). The town hall says the land is part of Benalmádena, based on border lines established in 1874 by the National Geography Institute (IGN).
In 1999 Benalmádena signed an agreement with Mijas, Alhaurín de la Torre and Torremolinos that detailed its borders with those towns, addressing any ambiguities left over from the 19th-century IGN document. But Fuengirola elected to not sign the agreement, leaving the disputed Higuerón border unresolved, explained Benalmádena’s mayor, Enrique Bolín, last week.
Now that Fuengirola has included the land in its PGOU, which has received initial approval and is currently in a public-comment period, Benalmádena town hall has decided to take action, said the mayor. It has submitted an official PGOU comment to Fuengirola town hall, including a map showing the 1874 border lines, and has also submitted the information to the Junta de Andalucía.
Fuengirola town hall has not commented on the situation other than to say it is studying the documentation submitted by Benalmádena town hall. Mayor Bolín said he was not optimistic for a quick resolution to the dispute. But if either Fuengirola or the Junta does not address the situation, Benalmádena is prepared to take the issue to court.
Axarquía reservoir accusations
Political parties clach over water contamination
By Dave Jamieson
A CHARGE THAT WATER IN LA VIÑUELA RESERVOIR IS CONTAMINATED HAS BEEN MET WITH AN ANGRY DENIAL AS OPPOSING POLITICAL PARTIES CLASHED LAST WEEK.
The accusation came from Francisco Delgado Bonilla, secretary general of the Partido Popular (PP) in Málaga, who claimed that untreated waste from Periana and Los Romanes was finding its way into the reservoir, creating an “unsustainable environmental situation.” According to Sr Delgado, a four-year-old water treatment plant in the area is not operating. Lake Viñuela supplies a large part of the Axarquía as well as the city of Málaga.
However, the comments were rebuffed, first by the water authority, whose spokesman, Antonio Rodríguez Leal, said that the water from the reservoir was within the normal parameters for quality established by legislation for drinking water. He also urged the PP not to alarm the public when multiple quality controls were in place.The following day José Jesús Dominguéz Palma of the PSOE also denied the accusation in his role as president of the Association of Axarquía and Costa del Sol Municipalities, and as president of Axargua, the public water and sewage company in the Axarquía. He stated there had been no “quality problems” detected in Viñuela’s water, and went as far as to say that the PP’s criticisms were “false”. Sr Domingués guaranteed water supplies from the reservoir, saying that daily analyses had detected no contamination which might prejudice public health. He called for public calm, adding that the quality of water had “greatly improved” over the last two years.
Odyssey hopes to start recovery work on HMS Sussex
Operations were temporarily halted at the request of the Spanish government
By David Eade
ODYSSEY MARINE EXPLORATION HAS STATED THAT IT HOPES TO RESTART ITS PROJECT OF RECOVERING TREASURE FROM THE SUNKEN BRITISH WARSHIP HMS SUSSEX THAT LIES IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS OFF GIBRALTAR LATER THIS YEAR.
The Sussex, an 80-gun English warship lost in a severe storm in the western Mediterranean in 1694, is believed to contain a wealth of coins and bullion when she sank. The US-company had been working with the British authorities on a recovery programme until this ran into political problems with Spain.
Odyssey temporarily halted operations at the request of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs while issues relative to the archaeological plan for excavation of the site, territorial and cultural issues were negotiated.
In March 2006, Odyssey submitted an archaeological plan to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs which addressed questions raised by the Junta de Andalucía.
In August, additional clarifications and a response to additional questions were provided at a meeting in Sevilla arranged by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs with representatives of the Andalucian regional government through the offices of the British Embassy in Madrid.
Odyssey says that as a result of that meeting, outstanding matters have been narrowed to three issues relating to site mapping, positional information and formalisation of the submission of the plan through the project archaeologists. An Odyssey spokesperson added that it is working closely with the offices of the British Embassy and the Ministry of Defence to address these final issues and anticipates that they will be resolved in time to resume operations later this year.
Ice-skating rink to open in December
By Oliver McIntyre
Benalmádena’s new ice-skating rink – the first in Andalucía – is to open its doors on December 15, local officials announced last week. The rest of the 11 million-euro sports complex, located in Arroyo de la Miel, will open on January 2.
The completion of the complex comes at the end of a long and at times difficult process. The project suffered serious delays and complications during construction, requiring the town hall to increase the original 7.35 million-euro budget by 50 per cent.
Known as the Club Municipal de Hielo, the complex is a municipal facility but will be operated under contract by a private company. The town hall’s councillor for sports, Manuel Crespo, explained that the sign-up period for membership is to be opened in phases, giving preference to registered (‘empadronado’) residents of the town. It will be opened to them from November 13, while the rest of the public will have to wait until December 11. The price structure and membership details have not yet been announced.Besides the 640-square-metre skating rink, the facilities include a 25-metre pool, a separate children’s pool, a fitness centre and a medical-assessment service to help members establish an appropriate workout regimen.
Queen Sofía on cultural visit to Cádiz
By David Eade
She started her schedule at the former Military Governor’s headquarters, an 18th century building which has now been converted into the Reina Sofia Cultural Centre. After arriving at 19.00, the Queen officially inaugurated the centre before being given a guided tour of its three storeys, which now contain municipal offices, a museum dedicated to sculptures by Vasallo, and the new Joly Foundation library. After leaving the cultural centre named in her honour the queen went to the Plaza de Fray Félix in El Pópulo to see the recently restored Bishop’s palace. Later, after dining at the Parador Hotel Atlántico, the Queen was then driven to the new Flamenco Art Centre in the Santa María district to enjoy a gala show before returning to the hotel where she stayed the night.
Study shows annual testing for lung cancer saves
By Oliver McIntyre
A MEDICAL RESEARCHER FROM NAVARRA UNIVERSITY HAS CALLED ON SPANISH OFFICIALS TO CONSIDER ANNUAL TESTING PROGRAMMES AIMED AT EARLY DETECTION OF LUNG CANCER IN SMOKERS, AFTER A STUDY THAT THE UNIVERSITY PARTICIPATED IN SHOWED THAT SUCH SCREENING SAVES LIVES.
In the study of 31,567 people in seven countries, annual low-dose CT screening detected lung cancer at its earliest stage in 85 per cent of cases, and prompt surgery following detection resulted in a 92 per cent 10-year survival rate.
Lung cancer was detected in 484 participants, 412 of whom were at Stage I. Those whose cancer was detected at Stage I and who chose not to be treated all died within five years. Overall, the estimated 10-year survival rate for the 484 people diagnosed with cancer was 80 per cent.
The results of the study, called the International Early Lung Cancer Action Project, were published in the October 26 New England Journal of Medicine.
Javier Zulueta of Navarra University, which had 1,300 patients in the study, urged government officials to consider regular use of annual screening for lung cancer in smokers and others with elevated risk. “The cost-to-efficacy ratio is very beneficial,” he said, noting that the treatment of advanced-stage lung cancers is costly and much less effective. Surgery to remove the cancer at its earliest stage “is much cheaper,” he said.
The study was launched in 1993 by researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Its principal investigator and lead author, Dr Claudia Henschke, said the study “provides compelling evidence that CT screening for lung cancer offers new hope for millions of people at risk for this disease and could dramatically reverse lung cancer death rates.” Nonetheless, experts agree that that the best weapon against lung cancer is to quit smoking. “That’s the real key,” said Dr Zulueta.
Government acts to curb water use
By David Eade
The Spanish government is considering bringing in a scale of surcharges for people who use excessive amounts of water, in a bid to curb water use after two years of drought.
Last year was the worst drought on record and this year, up to the end of September, Spain experienced below average rainfall leaving the country’s reservoir levels at their lowest since 1996.
Environment minister, Cristina Narbona, said her department plans to guarantee a minimum amount of clean water for everyone but will raise prices for those using above that limit.
She stated: “In principle, in line with a proposal made by Ecologists in Action, we suggest a minimum of 60 litres a day per person. There will be a reform of the water law to penalise excessive consumption via tariffs charged.” It is estimated that Spaniards use an average of around 170-litres a day.
Narbona spoke out at the start of a national water council meeting that will be looking at several water saving proposals. However a spokesperson at her ministry has denied that households would face higher prices if they used more than the 60 litres a day. The minister has not said how the reform will affect farmers who use around 77 percent of the country’s water. Urban areas accounts for 18 per cent of consumption whilst industry uses the remaining five per cent.
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