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Editor's choiceThe seriousness of squatting in Spain

The seriousness of squatting in Spain

Juan Sanchez Gil
Juan Sanchez Gil
Juan Sanchez Gil - at The European Times News - Mostly in the back lines. Reporting on corporate, social and governmental ethics issues in Europe and internationally, with emphasis on fundamental rights. Also giving voice to those not being listened to by the general media.

Squatting is a serious problem that is gaining more and more strength and involving more and more political and social actors, becoming a daily space in the media, causing tension and indignation in all citizens. For those who admit them and, in some cases, promote them, I say to them that “Serious is only one squatting”.

Faced with an unspoken crime, there are no effective measures to tackle the problem, on the contrary, squatters seem to go unpunished and are increasingly defiant before the Law and Society, because they frequently find that this antisocial and unlawful conduct goes unpunished. The law today leaves property owners unprotected and the State Security Forces without legal cover to protect private property. The measures adopted in recent years to alleviate this situation have been manifestly ineffective, so alternatives must be sought so that property owners are not dispossessed of their property with impunity.

“The right to property is a constitutionally recognised right” and enshrined in the Declaration of Human Rights. We all have the right to enjoy our property and no one can prevent us from doing so, except by means of the law. Squatting should be typified criminally as “permanent robbery” and would give the Public Forces the power to automatically expel the squatters without the need for a court order, but putting them at the disposal of a judge once expelled from the squatted property, with a prison sentence and automatic suspension of all social benefits received and if there are minor children that they pass their protection to the social services.

On the other hand, the squatter is a criminal and cannot use the principle of the inviolability of the home as his right to stay in the squatted property. From the moment he is outside the law, the squatter cannot use it as he pleases by claiming that housing is a fundamental right; this argument cannot be used in illegality, as the Constitutional Court has declared. In a state governed by the rule of law, the right of the one who violates and abuses it cannot prevail.

When a squatting is detected and reported, the police must immediately proceed to evict them, for which the law must make it clear that a squatter does not acquire the right to be in the squatted dwelling at any time, which is why it must be urgently typified as a crime of “permanent theft” if at some point they have managed to register, sometimes favoured by the administration itself, either by registering them with the utilities, etc. Once the squatting is known and denounced, these benefits are automatically eliminated for having acquired them by fraud of the Law, where the police are legitimised to evict the friends of others without the need for a judicial order.

A legislative reform is urgently needed to define the squatting of a house, whoever it belongs to, as a permanent theft and to speed up the eviction by the Security Forces as soon as they become aware of the squatted property. Defining squatting as robbery, given the magnitude of the stolen property, should be punished with prison, it is necessary to ensure the enforcement of sentences, on the other hand, the offender will lose official aid and subsidies and will not be able to aspire to the benefit of official housing. If we reward the crime of squatting with subsidised housing, we do a tremendous injustice to the people who use the legal path to aspire to official aid and benefits. The squatter must be clear that this is not a solution or a shortcut to get housing, the path of crime will only lead him to prison.

A social problem is added to a squat: deterioration of neighbourhood coexistence, tension and insecurity, we have to face it, because every day we see more violent reactions in the neighbourhoods and neighbours who try to take justice into their own hands, which leads to a notable insecurity and degradation of the quality of life of a community, on the other hand, the guarantee laws on the theft of property go against coexistence and social justice.

“A crime without punishment and penalty would be to allow and tolerate it” and would represent a great offence to coexistence. A government that allows injustice is a harmful and dangerous government for society.

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