As heartbreaking evictions continue in Spain due to the financial crisis, firefighters have now joined the protest against removing people from their homes by refusing to assist the bailiffs.
Digital Journal reported in January that locksmiths in Pamplona, Spain were boycotting evictions, by simply refusing to change locks on endangered homes. It seems that the trend has continued in other areas of Spain.
David Ormaechea, president of the Locksmiths Union told the media, “Families’ lives were being ruined and we were acting as executioners. It was causing us tension and unease.”
In an earlier media statement in January, Ormaechea said, "As professionals and people with a conscience, we cannot participate in these events."
Where a locksmith is not available to open up the home, firefighters are called in by the bailiffs to break open the doors of houses where people are resisting eviction, but now they are saying "No", their business is to help people, not to put them out on the street.
The latest example was on Tuesday last week, firefighters were called in to help evict an 85-year-old woman from her home in A Coruna, northern Spain. The lady had defaulted on her rent.
Firefighters protest the eviction of an 85-year-old woman in A Coruna, Spain.
The apartment block was surrounded by a crowd of anti-eviction protesters, and when the firefighters arrived on the scene, they refused to open the door of the apartment, and some of them even joined the protest. The video above shows part of the action.
Other regions of Spain are seeing firefighters join the cause, including Cataluña and Madrid.
Antonio del Rio, a labour union representative for the Cataluña fire service told the media that, “We come to the aid of people in emergencies. It is contradictory to help the banks that are putting people’s lives in danger” [by evicting them].
Another Madrid fireman Pedro Campos agreed saying, “The only thing we do is help citizens.”
“We only enter a home when there is danger inside. Getting a woman of 85 out of her home is not a situation of danger,” he added.
With the current wave of evictions of people unable to pay their mortgages due to the recession, several tragic suicides have occurred and this has sparked the protest movement, which has now brought a motion to parliament for a law to end the eviction procedures.
The movement against the evictions, "Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca" (PAH), says that hundreds of thousands of people in Spain face eviction following the collapse of the housing boom in 2008. With the recession driving the unemployment rate over 26%, many are unable to pay mortgages on their houses, and on top of this the houses have lost much of their value.
PAH has been demonstrating outside potential eviction sites for some time now and says that it has blocked half a million evictions since 2009. In some cases, families have been allowed to stay in their homes and pay rent.
The bill that they have proposed to government, which is backed by a petition with 1.4 million signatures, proposes to end evictions. Instead of evicting homeowners, they would be able to write off their debts by surrendering their home. At present, with the current law, former homeowners have to pay the balance of the loan, even if evicted, if the value of the seized property does not cover it.
The video below shows a typical PAH movement to prevent an eviction: