Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Basque Spanish city of Barakaldo to condemn the suicide of an evictee as well as to protest against further foreclosures.
Fifty-three-year-old Amaia Egaña jumped four floors to her death as bailiffs prepared to kick her out after she failed to stay current on her mortgage payments. She is the second person in less than three weeks to commit suicide in the face of an impending eviction.
Organizers of the Stop Eviction march called for immediate action by Madrid to end foreclosures, blaming the suicide on Spain's economic hardship. Demonstrators shouted slogans such as ''No eviction unanswered,'' and ''Banker, remember – we have rope.''
It is estimated that more than 400,000 families have lost their homes due to unpaid rents since the start of Spain's financial crisis in 2007.
On Thursday, the EU Court of Justice criticized Spain's mortgage law, which governs evictions, calling for a halt to the reposition of property. The Court said the legislation is incompatible with European consumer protection standards.
Following the tragedy, Barakaldo judge Juan Carlos Mediavilla also said that it is "necessary to amend current mortgage legislation" to prevent the recurrence of such events.
Employment and Social Security Minister Fatima Banez said the government deeply regretted Egaña's death.
Friday's tragedy follows two similar events. On October 25, another 53-year-old, Jose Miguel Domingo, was found dead in Granada immediately after bailiffs appeared on his doorstep. The following day, another 53-year-old jumped out of his apartment window just ahead of an eviction in the town of Burjassot, surviving the fatal fall.
The growing trend in suicides over evictions is adding to a shopping list of public concerns in Spain, where unemployment is going through the roof – reaching well beyond 25 per cent.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will seek a deal with with the opposition Socialists at a meeting on Monday in an effort to halt evictions, Spanish news agency EFE reports.
Rajoy accused the current legislation of allowing “inhuman situations” to occur by forcing people from their homes while still demanding they pay the remainder of their mortgage debt.
He said he wants to put a “temporary stop to evictions” by introducing a better code of practice among lenders which would allow renegotiations of debt or an agreement permitting debtors to remain in their homes for longer.
Meanwhile, the Socialist party is also asking to put a temporary end to evictions.
"We ask the government and banks to halt all housing evictions until we have a new law," Socialist Elena Valenciano said.
The Socialist party is aiming to introduce a new law where evictions would also be halted if a family only owns one home.
The European countries hit hardest by the financial crisis have shown an upsurge in suicide rates and anti-depressant prescriptions.
Greece's suicide rate, for example, has shot through the roof. The country's health ministry noted a 40 per cent rise in suicides in the first half of 2010. And by 2011, that number stood at 25 per cent in Athens and by 18 per cent countrywide.
In Italy, suicides motivated by economic difficulties have increased 52 per cent, to 187 in 2010 from 123 in 2005, reports The New York Times.