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Amnesty launches Spain anti-eviction campaign

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Amnesty launches Spain anti-eviction campaign
It is the first time Amnesty International has launched a global campaign against evictions in any country. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP
09:11 CEST+02:00
Rights group Amnesty International has launched its first campaign against evictions, tackling the widespread problem in crisis-hit Spain.

"The loss of one's home is one of the most extreme forms of interference with the right to adequate housing as well as the right to a private and family life," the group said in a report published on Tuesday.

Spanish authorities seized 95 homes a day in 2014 from inhabitants who defaulted on their mortgage payments, according to official data. On top of that countless other families were evicted for defaulting on rent or for occupying vacant properties.

The conservative government has adopted a series of measures to prevent the evictions of those worst hit by the economic crisis and record unemployment, but Amnesty said they are "insufficient to meet Spain's human rights obligations".

The group called for home evictions to be suspended in Spain "as long as there are no guarantees that human rights will be protected".

It recommended that judges be given the power to decide on the "proportionality and reasonableness" of an eviction on a case-by-case basis.

The group also wants a body to be created that will oversee negotiations between banks and households to make sure that "all feasible alternatives" to an eviction have been explored.

It is the first time that the global rights group has prepared a report and campaign that specifically focuses on the issue of home eviction in any nation, an Amnesty spokesman in Spain said.

Home evictions have soared in the country since a labour-intensive property bubble collapsed in 2008, throwing millions of people out of work.

While Spain's economy returned to growth last year, the jobless rate remains high at 23.8 percent in the first quarter, the highest rate in the Europan Union except for Greece.

A series of suicides by people about to be evicted and regular television images of weeping families who have just been thrown out of their homes has pushed the issue to the top of the political agenda.

Spain has some of the toughest mortgage laws. People must continue to pay off their mortgages, complete with interest and penalty charges, even after they have been evicted and their home has been repossessed. Since mortgage defaulters are disqualified from filing for bankruptcy, many are saddled with debts they can never escape.

Unlike other European nations such as Germany, Spain has no rent control to govern the private market and public or subsidised housing is scarce.

Amnesty notes in its report that only 1.1 percent of Spain's total housing stock is devoted to public housing, compared to 32 percent in the Netherlands and 18 percent in Britain.

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