A MOTHER and her two-year-old daughter have been forced out of their home after it was taken over by drug-taking squatters.
Paola Mancilla, who was living in her mother’s property in Triana, Sevilla, decided to rent out a room to a couple after being furloughed during the lockdown and needing some extra money to pay the mortgage.
Speaking to Europa Press, Paola said the couple at first seemed ‘normal’, but things quickly deteriorated when they began smoking and taking drugs in front of her daughter.
Things came to a head when they assaulted the mother, leaving her no other choice but to leave for the safety of her child.
She is now living in cramped conditions with her friends, without whom she would be homeless, she said.
The hospitality worker had to continue visiting the property so that it was not classed as ‘abandoned’ while police said they could do nothing.
“The police told me that they couldn’t kick me out and that I could only file repeated complained, my hands were tied,” she told Europa Press TV.
The couple left in mid-July, but on the very same day of their departure, Paola returned to find another couple with a minor inhabiting the flat.
The desperate mother reported them to police who told her they could not be kicked out because they had a minor with them.
“This has been such an ordeal for me, a terrible nightmare,” she said, breaking into tears, “I do not even have my daughter’s clothes, I do not wish this on anyone… with the little money I have I have had to buy my daughter clothes and food.
“Thank God for my friends otherwise I would be on the street.”
The single mum has had to continue working to pay the bills for the property where she has been unable to live.
“The laws are on the side of the squatters more than with the owners,” she said, “I just want the home back, it belongs to my mother and she left it to me as she had to return to Bolivia.”
The sad affair is all too familiar in Spain and has skyrocketed during the pandemic.
While squatting is illegal in Spain, removing them by force yourself can also be considered a crime and currently the law tends to side with squatters.
The most advised route is through the police and via the courts, but Spain’s slow justice system means it could take years. (Read more on squatter advice here).
Desokupa, a private company dedicated to kicking out squatters, says it has seen a 300% increase in website traffic following the COVID-19 lockdown.
Boss Daniel Esteve told press he will not have a summer holiday as he is so busy, with tourist destinations among the most affected.
“We do not stop,” said Esteve, “We have seen a 300% increase in traffic after the lockdown.
“People return to their second home in the summer and are surprised by squatters in their homes.
“Before the lockdown we received around 300 visits a day to our website, now it is around 1,500.
“We are now answering between 500 and 800 calls every day with our phonelines collapsing, I have had to expand my workforce.”
It comes after the Olive Press reported how a British family stuck in the UK discovered their house had been squatted by a group of lads in Estepona.
Beverley and Steve Morris, both 65, were left ‘heartbroken’ after seeing the teens drinking and smoking in their Costa del Sol apartment in photos uploaded online, with their walls covered in paint.
Somewhat luckily for the Brits, the teens seemed to have stayed for just a couple of days.
But many of the new ‘squatting’ cases have come from people who stopped paying rent since lockdown began.
Undoubtedly scores of people have been genuinely unable to afford rent after being furloughed or losing their jobs, particularly autonomos whose work has dried up.
But Esteve claims many have taken advantage of the situation and have stopped paying despite earning enough.
“Families call us telling us that the tenants don’t want to pay but they are still working and have no financial problems… it is very in trend to pay during the winter then stop paying in the summer to enjoy living rent free before moving on,” he claimed.
A darker side of the issue is the takeover of apartments by drug cartels.
Of the 4,800 properties liberated by Desokupa, some 10% have been so-called ‘narco-flats’.
It sees drug dealers take over homes so they can sell narcotics or use them as safe houses.
Esteve added: “In Barcelona I have recovered more than 150 narco-flats in the Raval. In Madrid we managed to evict in one minute a narco-flat that accumulated hundreds of complaints from neighbours who had received death threats.
“The Nigerian mafias sold heroin there. The police waited for us at the door and the truth is that the eviction was a success.”
Are you being affected by squatters? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org