European Court of Human Rights halts eviction of squatting Spanish families
Strasboug court seeks information on future housing status of 16 families from Spanish government
Activists congratulate Mariama Siall (29) and her daughters Ajafatu (two) and Kaliatu (eight) yesterday after hearing that the eviction of the block of flats occupied by the anti-evictions platform had been stopped. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
The European Court of Human Rights has blocked the eviction of a group of families in northeastern Spain who have been squatting in a block of flats owned by the country’s bad bank.
The Strasbourg court said that the eviction of the 43 inhabitants should be delayed at least until the end of this month. It made the ruling shortly before the eviction was due to take place yesterday morning. In the meantime, the court is seeking information from the Spanish government on the future housing status of the families.
The planned eviction, which had been authorised by a local court, sparked a massive social response, with hundreds of campaigners protesting outside the building in Salt in Catalonia. A large online campaign also offered support.
“This opens the door to correcting the judicial indecency of the Spanish courts,” said Benet Salellas, the lawyer representing the 16 affected families.
Most of those in the block are immigrants from countries such as Morocco, Gambia, Peru and Ecuador. Many are single-parent families with a monthly income of €426, which is the amount given to workers who no longer qualify for unemployment benefit. They have been living in the building for seven months, although it has no hot water or central heating.
That the building belongs to Sareb, Spain’s version of Nama, has added to campaigners’ outrage. The “bad bank”, which sought the eviction, has taken control of assets of several state-owned lenders whose exposure to the country’s burst property bubble left them struggling.
“We’re talking about an entire block of flats, which is an example of the disgrace that we are denouncing, flats that were rescued with public money and which are now being offered to foreign investors and speculators,” said Ada Colau, spokeswoman for the Platform for those Affected by Mortgages.
The platform is a grass-roots group which has lobbied for a major change to Spain’s strict mortgage laws. Its activists regularly block entrances of buildings where evictions are due to take place, preventing authorities from carrying out foreclosures.
As unemployment in Spain has soared to more than 26 per cent, more and more people have found it impossible to pay their mortgages. Activists claim that upwards of 400,000 evictions have taken place since the crisis started.