Before moving to Spain, I was clueless about the whole “okupa” movement. I knew about squatting as an individual, isolated cases but not as a collective, social situation. I have no memory of it from my native Turkey, neither from other places I’ve lived. But here in Barcelona, I see two okupa homes on my way from home to work, and I know they’re as such because there are banners all over them. Moreover, this phenomenon is not unique to Barcelona or Madrid, but of course they’re bigger deals in major cities.

So, here are some facts on okupas in Spain so that if you’re new to all this, you can better understand what okupas are and why political parties care so much about them (e.g. mentioning their take on okupas in their April 2019 general election promises).

1. The law 5/2018 is a game changer 

An article online written by Carlos Baos from White & Baos states that getting your home back from squatters is, at least on paper, much easier than it has been before. Due to the law 5/2018, an owner now does not have to identify the occupants of the property by name and can request the immediate handing over of possession of the property. The rules are simple: the occupants have to provide an authentic document within 5 days to the court to establish that they have a right to stay (e.g. contract, agreement). If they don’t, they would have to evacuate the property right away.

Here is the BOE (Boletín Oficial del Estado) that confirms this information. 

2. This very legal change divides Spanish politicians

According to this el Pais’ article, the Socialist Party (PSOE), the anti-establishment Unidos Podemos and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) all together oppose such legal change because they argue that now the vulnerable families who occupy homes are in danger more than ever. 

Basically, these political parties are asking to the right-wing parties a simple question: “Why do you think these people are occupying houses, and what can we do, apart from making it harder for them to occupy, to alleviate their economic conditions that cause them to squat in the first place?”

In summary, the new law removes the problems for house owners but it does not change the societal conditions for those who seem to have no other option but squatting a place.

3. There are Desokupas Too

So far, lengthy bureaucratic and legal measures have created a black market to get squatters’ removed. It is made up of people who call themselves desokupas and they are para-legal.  Desokupas come in and do rapidly what legal procedures don’t get to do quickly via court decisions. They’re made up of civilians, tough looking guys, and basically, they do whatever they can to put on a threatening appearance with their dogs. Obviously, their legitimacy is highly questionable. Regardless, thereare situations in which desokupas seem to serve well to hopeless property owners. Clearly, desokupas don’t offer a real solution. But I guess some owners feel obliged to rely on them for the shortcoming of the legal system while the societal crisis that leaves individuals homeless remain intact.

(The picture is taken from here)

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