Corona is leaving a trail of economic and social devastation on the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca. Single mothers slide into poverty – and become increasingly desperate.
The streets of Palma de Mallorca have been empty for weeks due to the corona lockdown. The women who pace up and down Plaça Sant Antoni, lean against the walls and smoke, or sit on folding chairs or chat in small groups, are all the more noticeable. They are waiting for male customers. And although this has become rare in the wake of the pandemic, the women are there even when it rains and temperatures are cool. Media and aid organizations complain that the Corona-Krise let much misery come to light on the vacation island and produce misery prostitution.
They are therefore often single mothers who went to work for the first time or after a long time because they lost their job as waitress or cleaning lady in the wake of the pandemic and are desperate. “For many it is the return or entry into the Prostitution the only way to care for their families, “explain Inmaculada Mas Nadal and Rafa Campos from the organization Doctors of the World of the German Press Agency.
More and more “newbies” on the streets
Last year, 1,168 people were taken care of who were engaged in prostitution in Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands, which takes place in Spain in a legal gray area. Of these, 439 people were looked after for the first time. Magdalena Alomar from the non-profit organization Casal Petit confirms that there are more and more “newcomers” due to the crisis.
Prostitutes in Palma de Mallorca: The Corona crisis has plunged many single mothers into economic hardship. (Source: Mar Granel / dpa)
“Newbies” like Leila. The Moroccan told the regional newspaper “Última Hora” that she had lost her job as a kitchen helper in a restaurant in the course of the crisis. She is new to the profession. She is hiding the new job from her family. “I have to send money to my mother and siblings. We are poor.”
“Nobody has come since Friday”
Not much money is being made at the moment. Leila spoke to the journalist on the last Sunday in January. “Nobody has come since Friday.” No wonder that the “full service” here in the center of Palma, not far from the posh shopping street Passeig del Born, is already available for 15 euros, as Jaume Perelló from Casal Petit explains. According to “Última Hora”, most women stand their legs in their stomachs for twelve hours every day – and still get an income of around one hundred euros a week.
“The women tell us that many have lowered prices and accept sex without protection because the competition is so great,” say the helpers from Doctors of the World. Customers were negotiating more now. The working conditions are not only much more dangerous than before because of the virus. The pimps also put much more pressure on women during the crisis, it is said.
At Plaça Sant Antoni, most women assure the media that they don’t have a pimp. Perelló knows, however, that this is not always the case and that some of the smugglers who brought them to Spain are in the chalk with up to 7,000 euros. Therefore they would have to “accept any price”. Physical and psychological violence is part of everyday life. Catalina Bagur from the Red Cross in Mallorca also speaks of an “extreme emergency” for women.
80 percent single mothers
The weakest of the weak are affected. According to doctors of the world, two thirds of the prostitutes cared for by the organization have families to look after. And most of them, around 80 percent, are single mothers. Most are immigrants from countries such as Colombia, Romania and Morocco.
But there are also Mallorcan women who, before the pandemic, often had a job as a cleaning lady, child or senior carer, but no employment contract and could therefore easily be put outside the door. You have no right to short-time work or unemployment benefits. Like María, who escaped the line years ago, had a living as a cleaning lady and now ended up on the street again at 53. “I had no alternative,” she says.
According to a study by the University of the Balearic Islands, the number of people living in extreme poverty has doubled to 34,000 in just one year. The dreariness is enormous in the party stronghold. The number of vacationers fell by almost 90 percent in 2020, tourists are currently on Ballermann search with a magnifying glass. Restaurants and bars are closed at least until the beginning of March. “The slow return to normal will not begin for many months,” said the respected doctor Joan March of the newspaper “Última Hora”.