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Monday June 20, 2011

White Knight Protestors Save Homes from Repossession

The other day a local Majorcan bank manager told me that the town’s notary had been twiddling his thumbs of late. With few buying property despite the drop in house prices his role as marriage broker between vendor and purchaser with all the Spanish officialdom that that entails had been severely diminished. Instead he had found himself having to witness more and more repossession orders, something which neither he nor our more human rural banks much relish.

In Spain the number of homes being repossessed has grown dramatically since the boom and bust years of the nineties and early noughties when property prices were healthy and 100 per cent mortgages were being dished out willy nilly to all and sundry. Now it’s a very different story as the value of property has sunk like a deflated soufflé to an all time low and many home owners simply cannot pay their mortgages because of tough economic conditions.

The demonstrators of the “indignant” movement who have camped out in the main squares of 80 cities including Barcelona and Madrid, to highlight the injustices facing those without jobs, security and a future, have now created a well orchestrated campaign to help those whose homes are under threat of repossession from the banks. Using social networking sites to spread their message and rally the troops, they have rushed like white knights to the aid of pensioners and impoverished immigrants, forming a human shield around their homes and refusing to allow repossession orders to be physically handed over to them.

It is estimated that at least 250 repossessions are taking place every day in the country, and with unemployment reaching 21 per cent, the situation is likely to become much worse.

In rural Majorca where bank managers and staff are usually on very warm terms with their clients-often having family friends and neighbours in common-the dishing out of repossession orders is a far more bitter pill to swallow. Unlike faceless city banks, many of the banking staff feel personal anguish when a customer loses a home but are powerless to intervene, merely being employees of a large national banking enterprise.

The hapless processing of repossessions for those known to them in the community, makes many a bank employee miserable. Those at my own bank with whom I am on first name terms-similarly to other residents-shake their heads sadly when I raise the issue. Their concern, though genuine, is small comfort to the fallen but at least the “indignants” are banging the drum for victims of the economic crisis.

Spanish politicians might have thought their protest was a flash in the pan but they were wrong. The “indignant” movement is swelling every day, gathering supporters across the country using social networking sites as its commanding wand. One thing’s certain, until they’re heard, the white knights of the poor, dispossessed and repossessed, are here to stay.

First publsihed

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