Police evict squatters from warehouse in Badalona: "We don't know where to go now"
Landlord, 'bad bank Sareb', avoided negotiating with the hundred people who asked to spend the winter months and the sixth wave of covid on the premises
BadalonaNobody slept all night as they waited for the bailiffs to arrive. The nearly one hundred people squatting in a warehouse on Progrés street in Badalona warmed themselves with a small brazier in the warehouse's courtyard, surrounded by activists who came to support them on a particularly cold morning. "We can't leave. We have no other place to live, " exclaims Guinean Amadou Bar in a group in which most are young sub-Saharan Africans like him who fear that, although they have asked for a three-month extension to stay in the old building, they will have to leave what has been their home for two or three years. "Without papers, where do you want me to go, where can I work?" asks Nigerian Joy Demode, one of the few women living here. "Life is hard, no water or light, it's cold and it's hard to be able to sleep and survive," relates Jodian David, also Nigerian.
After two postponements, two courts in Badalona have ordered the Mossos d'Esquadra to execute the eviction of the warehouse. Most of its inhabitants used to live in a former factory that burnt down in December 2020, in a fire that killed four people. After mediation, finally the police made the occupants leave the premises after a small charge against the activists who were concentrating around 12 noon.
The collective had asked the court to let them spend the intense cold of winter and the sixth wave of covid in the warehouse, with the commitment to leave the premises before the end of March, but the court rejected the proposal, disregarding the mediation of the City Council and arguments put forward by defence lawyer Sònia Olivella, of Baula collective. "The administrations have done nothing to offer them a dignified response," she complains.
As a last resort, the lawyer had filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to paralyse the eviction as a precautionary measure. But finally the hundred or so people who were squatting the building –there is no official census– have been left out in the open again, despite the fact that the City Council will attend to their cases one by one through the Centre for Social Emergencies (CUES): "We don't know where to go now".
The Progrés warehouse is owned by state-owned bad bank Sareb and was occupied days after a fire destroyed a nearby factory, also in the Badalona neighbourhood of Gorg, in which four people died. Initially, the hundred or so survivors set up camp in a street a few metres from the damaged building to demand a response to their vulnerable situation, but the City Council finally evicted them and some found shelter in other abandoned buildings in the city.
Most of the residents are undocumented foreigners who are trapped in the circle of exclusion: without documents there is no way to access the legal labour market and, therefore, they are forced to collect scrap metal and do other precarious jobs and survive by squatting or living and sleeping in the open.
Several charities have called rallies this morning in support of the occupants, who are back to square one over a year later, with no alternative to squatting. Municipal sources have explained that Sareb has not accepted mediation to try to give them more time and admit that there is no housing solution for all of these people. In any case, the same sources say that they will try to find hostels or residences through CUES, as already happened after the fire of 2020, when the City Council offered emergency places, but it will be done "on an individual basis".
However, the Progrés warehouse is not the only settlement in Badalona, where the lack of affordable housing and the economic crisis mean that every day there are attempted evictions. The situation is borderline, municipal social services unions warn, which have denounced the structural deficiencies to be able to attend vulnerable citizens adequately, since for years the political leaders of the administration have emptied these essential services of staff.