Barcelona police launch massive crackdown on narcopisos

Hundreds of police backed by a helicopter on Monday raided dozens of apartments in central Barcelona used for selling and consuming heroin and other drugs, making dozens of arrests.

Barcelona police launch massive crackdown on narcopisos
Photo: Mossos d'Esquadra

A court in the northeastern Spanish city authorised the search of 40 flats in the central Gotic and Raval neighbourhoods, according to a statement from the regional judiciary administration.

About 30 people were arrested, police tweeted, in the anti-drug trafficking operation which got underway at dawn.   

Over 700 officers from Catalonia's regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, and more than 150 officers from Barcelona's municipal police were involved, the two police forces said in separate tweets.

Several narrow streets in the centre of Barcelona were blocked by blue police vans as armed officers wearing ski masks stood guard, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Police removed cardboard boxes from several apartment buildings as neighbours looked on. Some tourists snapped pictures.   

Residents of the two central neighbourhoods which are popular with tourists have long complained that empty flats, many of which are owned by banks and investment funds following Spain's property crash a decade ago, had been taken over by drug traffickers as places where people come to buy and use drugs.

They say the arrival of these so-called “narcopisos” has led to a rise in muggings of tourists as well as local shops by addicts seeking money to buy drugs, as well as violence between the different drug trafficking rings that operate in the area.

READ MORE: El Raval: Welcome to Barcelona's most dangerous neighbourhood


A video of a man wielding a large machete in broad daylight over another man as he lay defenceless and injured on the ground of a street in Raval made headlines in Spain last month.

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was born in Barcelona, has made fighting crime in the city a central theme of his campaign to become the city's mayor in an election next year.

READ ALSO: Narcopisos: 'Drug flats' blight the heart of Spanish cities


Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.