The Spanish parliament has rejected a bill to more rigorously prosecute Spanish squatters,

El Mundo

reports

.

Three parties wanted to implement years of punishment for illegal actions and introduce options to evict so-called 'Okupas' from a building within twelve hours.

In Spain it is currently relatively easy as a squatter to stay in one building for a long time.

Current legislation is open to interpretation, which makes it difficult to determine when a squatting family has committed a crime.

A judge must decide for each case whether there is

usurpación

(theft) or

allanamiento de morada

(burglary).

In the former case, a judge can rule that there is no crime, given that only "the most serious offenses" are punishable, news site

The Local

wrote

.

What is the Okupa Movement?

  • The Okupa movement has been around for decades and, in short, fights for a roof over every Spaniard's head.

    Members 'demonstrate' by occupying vacant homes.

If 'Okupas' can prove that they have been staying in the building for a longer period of time and have keys to the doors of the house - locks are often replaced immediately after the squat - that strengthens their business.

The presence of children within squatter families is also a sensitive issue in court.

Owners must catch squatters in the act within two days so that the police can expel them with an official warrant.

If squatters can prove that they have been there for some time, an official procedure must be started.

Homeowner must continue to pay taxes from occupied home

It saddles homeowners with a problem and regularly provokes the ire of the Spanish people.

The costly procedures to reclaim property can take years, as squatters can stretch time in many ways.

In the meantime, the rightful owner must continue to pay all utility costs and taxes, even though other persons now reside.

A law introduced in 2018 was supposed to help owners get their homes back within one month, but the lawsuits require such complex paperwork that many Spaniards are discouraged, writes the Spanish newspaper

El País.

Many try to lure the 'Okupas' out with a bag of money.

Another option is the use of so-called 'powerhouses': security guards, bouncers and former soldiers who 'kindly ask' the squatters for a relatively small sum of money if they want to 'drive along', so that the rightful owner can 'come back',

El País

wrote

earlier.

Use of the method is controversial and can cause problems.

If squatters can prove that they have been intimidated or that violence has been used, it could result in severe punishment for the rightful owner of the home.

Right-wing parties want high prison sentences to make squatting unattractive

Right-wing parties Vox, PP and Ciudadanos had hoped to announce years of imprisonment and more accessible procedures to slow down the squatting in Spain.

Current prison sentences are a maximum of around two years, a sentence where a convicted person does not have to go to cell if he has no criminal record.

'Okupas' therefore follow the motto:

un desalojo, otra okupacion,

a new squat for each eviction.

However, the bill met with resistance from left-wing parties.

In the past, they have opposed similar initiatives because the bills "affect vulnerable families, without offering alternative solutions".

Millions of houses in Spain are vacant for a long time

After the financial crisis in 2008, hundreds of thousands of evictions took place in Spain, boosting the popularity of the Okupa movement.

Putting many Spanish families out on the street was often against young people.

Many members then decided to occupy premises seized by banks.

El País

estimated late last year that more than 100,000 homes in the country are likely to be "illegally occupied".

In addition, millions of houses are said to be vacant for a long time each year, which are still owned by banks or Spanish citizens who do almost nothing with them.

Left-wing Spanish parties want to tackle the banks and other parties to give the empty houses a purpose.

PSOE, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's party, wants a new proposal to also take measures against them.