Spanish Locksmiths Refuse To Assist in Evictions After Suicides

PHOTO: Citizens affected by bank mortgage and evictions protest in front a regional bank displaying banners reading, This Bank deceives, swindling and fire people of their house, in Pamplona northern Spain on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012.

Locksmiths in the Spanish town of Pamplona are refusing to change the locks on homes of recent evictees.

They claim to want no part in the suffering – including suicides – brought on by evictions that are the result of Spain's economic crisis.

The locksmiths took up this response after a handful of suicides stemming from evictions have captured the public spotlight. Without locksmiths to change the locks after evictions, residents can re-enter their homes, which makes fully evicting someone a lengthy and difficult process under Spanish law.

In November, a woman jumped off her balcony near Pamplona, plunging to her death moments before her eviction. That sparked a national outcry leading the pro-austerity government to enact a moratorium on evictions of the most vulnerable, including families with infants and disabled dependents.

Economic conditions in Spain are becoming increasingly dire -- the unemployment rate is now 26 percent and increasing. There were also an estimated 50,000 evictions in 2012. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has walked a fine line trying to ease market fears and pressures from European leaders.

The extreme financial situation has led to at least a dozen deaths in 2012 and a regional newspaper reported that suicides rose 10 percent in 2011 (report in Spanish). Last week, the BBC covered the death of one man who apparently self-immolated due to financial struggles. Another man remains in the hospital after burns from a separate similar incident.

Spain is not alone in this phenomenon. A recent report by The Lancet, a medical journal, found that the United States also saw a rise in suicide rates during the recession. The rate of suicide increased fourfold from 2008 to 2010, compared to the previous eight years. Increased unemployment, among other things, were connected to the trend.

The difference in the U.S. is that there is at least some sense that the market is shifting. The January jobs report marked the fifth month in a row that the unemployment rate went down.

From the looks of it, it may be some time before Spain finds itself in that position.

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