Wave of Evictions Leads to Homeless Crisis in Spain

Francisco Rodríguez Flores in a building where he and his family live that has been taken over by the homeless. It had been vacant for three years.

By , The New York Times, November 11, 2012

SEVILLE, Spain — The first night after Francisco Rodríguez Flores, 71, and his wife, Ana López Corral, 67, were evicted from their small apartment here after falling behind on their mortgage, they slept in the entrance hall of their building. Their daughters, both unemployed and living with them, slept in a neighbor’s van.

“It was the worst thing ever,” Mrs. López said recently, studying her hands. “You can’t image what it felt like to be there in that hall. It’s a story you can’t really tell because it is not the same as living it.”

Things are somewhat better now. The Rodríguezes are among the 36 families who have taken over a luxury apartment block here that had been vacant for three years. There is no electricity. The water was recently cut off, and there is the fear that the authorities will evict them once again. But, Mrs. López says, they are not living on the street — at least not yet.

The number of Spanish families facing eviction continues to mount at a dizzying pace — hundreds a day, housing advocates say. The problem has become so acute that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has promised to announce emergency measures on Monday, though what they may be remains unclear.

While some are able to move in with family members, a growing number, like the Rodríguezes, have no such option. Their relatives are in no better shape than they are, and Spain has virtually no emergency shelter system for families.

For some, the pressure has been too much to bear. In recent weeks, a 53-year-old man in Granada hanged himself just hours before he was to be evicted, and a 53-year-old woman in Bilbao jumped to her death as court officials arrived at her door. Continue reading

Afghanistan: The path from home

Out of Afghanistan: incredible stories of the boys who walked to Europe

The country is so dangerous it’s no wonder so many leave, travelling alone across the Middle East in search of a new life
by Caroline Brothers, The Observer, Sunday 29 January 2012
Behind the security bars of a spartan, white-tiled room, 25 youths are arranging bedrolls on the floor. The workers on the Salvation Army nightshift, who watch over these lone foreign teenagers in a shelter in a gritty corner of Paris, are distributing sheets and sleeping bags; there are a couple of boys from Mali and a contingent of Bangladeshis; the rest have travelled overland, by every conceivable method, from Afghanistan.

The road to peace: 13-year-old Morteza spent five months travelling from Kabul to Paris. His journey took him through Iran, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy Photograph: Ed Alcock/MYOP

The youngest are 13 years old, pint-sized cousins from Kabul who arrived that morning after a journey of five months. They take off their trainers and place them at the end of their bedrolls. One of them, Morteza, gingerly peels off his socks. The undersides of his toes are completely white.

I ask what happened to his feet. “Water,” he says. Where was he walking in water? Mohammed, the boy on the next bedroll who knows more English, translates. “In the mountains,” he says. Which mountains, I ask, thinking about the range that forms the border between Turkey and Iran. “Croatia, Slovenia, Italy,” Morteza says. Mohammed intervenes. “Not water,” he clarifies. “Snow.”
Suddenly I understand. Morteza’s feet are not waterlogged or blistered. He has limped across Europe with frostbite.
The next day I run into them watching the older Afghans play football in a park. Morteza’s 13-year-old cousin Sohrab, pale and serious beyond his years, recounts, in English learned during two years of school in Afghanistan, what happened. “Slovenia big problem,” he says, explaining how he and Morteza, “my uncle’s boy”, were travelling with eight adults when they were intercepted by the Slovenian police. Two members of their group were caught and the rest made a detour into the mountains. They spent five days in the snow, navigating by handheld GPS, emerging from the Alps in Trento, in the Italian north.
Morteza acquired frostbite on the penultimate part of a 6,000km journey that detoured through the Balkans: through Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. Their aim is to join their uncle who lives in Europe, the solution their relatives found after Morteza’s father was killed in an explosion. His mother died earlier “in the war”; Sohrab lost his own father when he was 11.

Waiting in hope: boys from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and sub-Saharan Africa line up in the hope of being offered a bed for the night Photograph: Ed Alcock/MYOP

Morteza and Sohrab are among the world’s most vulnerable migrants. Like scores of Afghan teenagers in transit across Europe, they are in flight from violence or the aftershocks of violence that affect children in particularly harsh ways. Those who turn up in Paris have spent up to a year on the road, on the same clandestine routes as adults, but at far greater risk.

No one knows how many unaccompanied Afghan children have made it to Europe. Paris took in just over 300 in 2011 – the biggest nationality among the 1,700 lone foreign minors in its care. Sarah Di Giglio, a child-protection expert with Save the Children in Italy, says that last year the number of Afghan boys – there are almost never girls – passing through a day centre in Rome had doubled from the year before, to 635.
Asylum statistics are another measure, though they give only a rough indication since many children never make a claim. Still, at 4,883, Afghans were the biggest group of separated foreign children requesting asylum in 2010, the majority in Europe.
While some are sent out of Afghanistan for their own safety, others make their own decision to leave. Some are running from brutality, or the politics of their fathers, or recruitment by the Taliban. Others have been pushed onwards by the increasing precariousness of life in Pakistan and Iran, countries that host three million Afghan refugees. Continue reading

Policing in America: “Keeping the Jigs in Line”

By Mike Ely
Let me start with a personal story far from the urban ghettos:

I once lived in the “black belt” of West Virginia — from Gary Holler to Welch to Bluefield — where there were a string of coal camps containing interspersed black communities. And in a small coal camp on the Elkhorn river (population under 1,000) i was talking to the town cop in an afterhours semilegal speakeasy joint.

And he said to me (simply): “My job is keeping the jigs in line.”

It was that conscious.

And, it  was not like there was no actualcrime in this little town that might preoccupy a cop. And it was not like the real crime in town was somehow concentrated among the Black folks.

There was a copper stealing ring of white coalminers who delivered their goods to the local junk guy. There was lots of breaking and entering. There were meth rings. There was tons of wife beating and other domestic abuse. There were illegal strikes all the time. There was arson going on for insurance purposes (where desperate people burned their cars or homes). And there was the usual madness of working class life, like people shooting each other’s dogs over disputes. etc. And most of this (obviously) involved white people (if only because they were the majority of the town). Continue reading