In 2012, more than 50,000 families were evicted from their homes in Spain for nonpayment of their rent or mortgage. Then the suicides began. Now locksmiths in Pamplona say, no more - they will not assist with evictions.
Evictions are becoming commonplace in crisis-torn Spain with so many people losing first their jobs, and then their homes.
When an eviction is made, the normal scheme of things is that locksmiths are employed to change the lock on the home, hand over the keys to the prosecutor, who then delivers them to the bank that is claiming the housing.
The locksmith is chosen on a random basis by the attorneys representing the financial institutions. 15 locksmith companies in the urban area of Pamplona have seen an increase from an eviction each month, up to an average of three per week.
However, now, according to Iker de Carlos, the Assembly Speaker of the Professional Locksmiths of Pamplona, in Spain's Navarre region, "they will have to call locksmiths outside Navarre."
De Carlos, who works in his family's locksmith business, said, "What you see on television is different from when you go there. You know you're helping to kick people out of their home, to stay on top of a perpetual debt that you will have to keep paying."
"We know that we will not start a revolution, but we want to serve as a example to Navarre society on how to fix an unfair situation," he added.
Referring to a suicide of an eviction victim, 53-year-old Amaia Egana, in autumn 2012 outside of Pamplona, de Carlos said, “We’re people, and as people we can’t continue carrying out evictions when people are killing themselves.”
The Union of Security Locksmiths has 300 member companies, with more than 2,000 professionals, who are now working against the evictions. Among the evictions they are boycotting, are situations where entire families, the elderly and children would be on the street once their home has been taken from them.
PRI reports that this is actually a very ingenuous plan, because if no one changes the locks on the apartment or house, the bank can’t repossess it, and the evictees can get back in. Apparently the legal proceedings to get them out again would take months, or even years.
The decision was taken three weeks ago at the first meeting of the Assembly of Professional Locksmiths of Pamplona. This was the only item on the agenda and it was approved unanimously.
The president of the federation, David Ormaechea said, "As professionals and people with a conscience, we cannot participate in these events."
Ormaechae went on to tell the experience of one of the locksmiths in the group, in Barcelona, who acted according to his conscience. The eviction involved a father with four children, one of whom is mentally ill. "It was a situation where he thought he should not act and he refused to change the locks." says Ormaechea.
Other evictions involved elderly people, struggling to get into their clothes as they are evicted, or a family crying on a bench outside what was once their home. There are also times when the locksmith's work goes beyond just changing the locks once the house has been vacated. On occasion, they are requested to open the doors, with the occupants still inside, to allow the eviction to take place.
According to de Carlos, most locksmith businesses in Pamplona are small and family-run, and they understand what is affecting the people around them. According to data provided by the Platform of People Affected by Mortgages in Navarre (PAHN), 2012 closed with over 700 evictions in the area. This means that in recent years, this type of work has become 10% of turnover for a locksmith.
While it is a fair percentage of their income, and is better paid than most jobs, the locksmiths have still made the decision to boycott the evictions. De Carlos says he is "curious to see how the banks react" to their decision. "Or will they have to call someone from outside Navarre," said one of the young locksmiths.
According to PAHN, with the public holidays over the festive season, there has been no opportunity as yet to test the reaction of banks. As it turns out there was an agreement between the banks to temporarily halt evictions during the holidays.
While Spain has passed a Royal decree to curb evictions in certain circumstances, this is not enough, and according to the locksmiths, the new decree does not help those that really need it, as the scheme would exclude retirees and single mothers with a child over 3 years old.
Guillermo Knob, another spokesman for the federation, reported that the step taken by the locksmiths in Navarre is "very noble" and he trusts that this will extend to the rest of Spain.