Illegal settlement near Madrid: “Sector 6” should give way

Europe Magazine

Status: 03/11/2023 3:23 p.m

In Europe’s largest illegal settlement near Madrid, thousands live without electricity. The settlement has grown over decades – now at least some of the residents are to move. Not everyone agrees with this.

By Sebastian Kisters, ARD Studio Madrid

On the high plateau of Spain the winter was cold again. Temperatures repeatedly fell below freezing. Here lies the capital of the country, Madrid. And only 20 minutes by car from the center is probably the largest illegal settlement in Europe.

Since October 2021, there has been no electricity in many houses here. The European Committee on Social Rights estimates that 1,800 children alone are said to be affected.

Once many illegal settlements

Houses in the affected area stretch along a street like a thin ribbon. Once upon a time there was a road on which cattle were driven. At some point people settled there, built huts and houses. There were many such settlements in Spain. During the Franco years, nobody asked for permits.

In many places, the problem resolved itself. Cities grew and simply swallowed up the illegal settlements. But the one in the east of Madrid remained and is called today like the historical path on which it was created: Cañada Real – “Royal Pasture Path”.

Illegal settlements in Spain

Sebastian Kisters, ARD Madrid, Europamagazin, March 11, 2023

“Supermarket for Drugs”

Markel Gorbea, on the other hand, calls sections of the 14-kilometer-long road settlement “supermarket for drugs.” He is the Madrid Regional Government’s Commissioner for the Illegal Settlement. The authorities would like to legalize some of them. But they want to demolish the southernmost part.

It is about the so-called “Sector 6”. The word “Kiosko” is sprayed on many shacks and shacks here. In Madrid, it’s no secret that these kiosks don’t sell chocolate or magazines – they sell drugs.

Police recently released video of a raid. Brightly lit marijuana plantations can be seen. The enormous power requirement for drug cultivation has probably caused the power grid to collapse in places.

The word “Kiosko” is spray-painted on many stalls in the Cañada Real development. The word signals that drugs are sold here.

Image: ARD Studio Madrid

criticism of the United Nations

Migrants and Spaniards live here, driven by crises – or built along the old path decades ago because it was a way to live very cheaply near the city center where there is work.

They light candles in the evening so there is a bit of light. A UN special rapporteur on human rights turned to Spain last year: “It is irresponsible” that children have to live without electricity in winter. Now the European Committee for Social Rights followed suit. Spain is endangering the right to health. It’s about 4500 people in the Cañada Real.

But the regional government of Madrid does not want to repair the power grid. Because then even more drugs would be cultivated, it is said. The people from “Sector 6” should move instead. The city of Madrid has bought more than 400 apartments in different parts of the city for this purpose.

Families from the Cañada Real can move in here. In the first three months they pay 50 euros rent, then around 200 euros. The state pays the rest. Their old houses are torn down.

Houses in the Cañada Real settlement stretch along a street like a thin ribbon. Markel Gorbea is the Regional Government Commissioner for Illegal Settlement.

Image: ARD Studio Madrid

Moving – or eviction

It is a great opportunity for many families. For the first time, some have hot running water and lights that come on at the touch of a button. But others love their life with chickens and small gardens, the self-built houses.

A man stands in front of his house in “Sector 6” and says: “Nobody said that we could build here. But everyone knew it. And nobody said that we weren’t allowed to build here.” Many think that Madrid wants to tear down houses here so that new ones can be built later. On lots selling dearly near the glittering city centre.

These days families are leaving the settlement. The authorities threatened others with eviction.

Image: ARD Studio Madrid

Markel Gorbea, the official officer for the Cañada Real, disagrees. “Sector 6” is on the edge of a nature reserve, which is one of the reasons why it should never have been built here. And that also applies to the future.

These days, families are leaving what is probably the largest illegal settlement in Europe. The authorities threatened others with eviction. Fires are burning in barrels on the street – a signal to customers from the city that drugs are being sold here. A little further, residents have solar systems installed on their houses. It’s complicated.

You can see this and other reports in Europamagazin – on Sunday at 12.45 p.m. in the first.

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