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Following public outcry, Spain suspends evictions of those hit by economic crisis

Since 2008, Spain has repossessed about 400,000 homes. Public outrage after a woman committed suicide as she was being evicted, has lead the government to suspend eviction orders for two years.

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However, the Spanish Banking Association (AEB) said its members had already agreed with the government last week to suspend eviction cases for two years for those most in need.

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This showed "...the commitment of the AEB's members, for humanitarian reasons and because of their social responsibility, to stop evictions during the next two years in those cases of extreme need", it said in a statement on Monday.

Protesters say this will not go far enough given thousands will face difficulties in the next few months.

DESPERATE HOMEOWNERS

Egana's death, and another eviction-related suicide in October, have intensified a popular backlash with many accusing the banks - some of which will receive part of an up to 100 billion euro European bailout - of callous disregard for the effects of unemployment, which has hit 25 percent.

However, a number of banks themselves are in dire straits because of the failure of many borrowers, ranging from small homeowners to major property developers, to repay their debts.

On Monday protesters gathered outside the People's Party headquarters in central Madrid before walking to parliament.

"We are due to be evicted on the 20th of this month, and we have nowhere to go but the street," said Angel Moran, a 59-year-old painter.

He said he had been out of work for four years, had a young daughter to support and the two other people living in his home to share the costs were now also without work.

As property prices have tumbled about 30 percent, hundreds of thousands of people who took on huge mortgages during the boom years now owe more than their home is worth.

Under Spanish law, even when borrowers turn over their homes to the bank, they still owe the entire amount of the mortgage.

A citizens' movement called "Stop Evictions" has organised protests at apartment buildings to block court workers from evicting families.

The pressure by Stop Evictions and other groups led the government to ask banks earlier this year to forgive mortgage debt for properties worth less than 200,000 euros and where all family members are unemployed.

A group of senior judges has pushed for a cross-party agreement on eviction reform, and a police union said it will support officers who refuse to take part in an eviction.

On Saturday, northern Spanish mortgage lender Kutxabank said it was suspending repossessions after the suicide of Egana.

Last week, European Union Advocate General Juliane Kokott issued a non-binding report concluding that Spanish legislation on evictions contradicts European norms for protecting consumer rights. Europe's highest court will rule on the issue.

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