Strasbourg intervenes to stop eviction of 16 families from Girona apartments

Protestors rejoice in Salt as squatters given reprieve at least until end of the month

The apartment block occupied by the Mortgage Victims Platform in Salt.
The apartment block occupied by the Mortgage Victims Platform in Salt.PERE DURAN

The European Court of Human Rights has postponed the planned eviction of 16 families, with a total of 21 children, who have been living in an apartment block in Salt, Girona, until October 29. The Strasbourg court has requested that a report be sent from the Spanish government before October 24, in order to guarantee the fate of the families living in the apartments should they be evicted, and ensure there are no violations of European law.

Around 700 anti-eviction activists descended on Salt on Tuesday to show their support for the 16 families, who are from Spain, Gambia and Morocco, and have been living in the block for seven months. The owner of the property is Spain’s so-called bad bank Sareb, which was set up to absorb the toxic real estate assets on the books of Spanish lenders.

The decision was joyfully received by the thousand or so protestors who had converged around the building by Wednesday, some of whom burst into song or wept upon hearing the news. Now it remains to be seen what the Spanish government will do before the end of October, when the decision will be made as to whether or not to proceed with the eviction of the squatters.

A lawyer working for the Girona branch of the Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH) protest group, Benet Salellas, explained that it took the case to Strasbourg “given the complete neglect and refusal of the Spanish justice system to respond to a single one of the humanitarian requests [we have made] regarding the protection of the children and families [living in the block].”

This will allow us to correct the judicial indecency of the Spanish courts”

After evaluating the facts of the case, and taking into account an additional request from the Catalan Housing Agency, which was also asking for more time to deal with the people living in the block, the European Court has ruled in their favor. Salellas believes the social pressure in the case has been fundamental, given that “it got the Catalan public administration involved, which definitely helped with the decision made by Strasbourg.”

The request sent to Strasbourg by Salellas only covered the two families who are registered with the local authorities as living in the block. While the European ruling also only refers to these two families, Salellas is of the opinion that the temporary suspension of the eviction “covers the rest of the inhabitants.”

The remaining families are in the process of registering as inhabitants of the building with the local authorities, a process that, they say, is incredibly slow.

This is not the first time that the European Court has intervened in cases such as this in Spain. In January, a ruling stopped the eviction of a Gypsy woman and her two children from a property in Madrid, while a month later a Moroccan family was allowed to stay in their home in Cañada Real, also in Madrid.

“Given the housing policies of the Spanish government, this is not the first nor will it be the last [such ruling],” said PAH lawyer Salellas. “This opens the door to us being able to correct the judicial indecency of the Spanish courts.

“We are overjoyed,” said Pau Llong, from the PAH’s Social Work commission. Llong went on to say that they have been trying to speak to Sareb for months, and said he was confident that the ruling would mean that “once and for all we will all be able to sit down and meet.”

In a country with extremely high ownership rates and record levels of unemployment, the number of evictions in Spain has rocketed in recent times. In the last three years, the number of foreclosure claims reaching the courts has nearly quadrupled, according to figures from the General Council of the Judiciary legal watchdog.