MADRID (Reuters) – About 150 homeless people have set up tents outside El Prado museum in Madrid, a tourist hotspot, to demand secure housing and send a message to local officials that “we are not invisible”.
Camped on the Paseo del Prado boulevard between the museum and the City Hall for the past three months, the protesters are a reminder of the devastating effects of the economic crisis of 2008-13.
“We want no one to be left on the street because it is a violation of fundamental rights of our constitution,” said Miguel Carrera, a spokesman for the camp.
Madrid Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida from the conservative People’s Party has criticised the movement, saying “public space cannot be illegally occupied” as a means of protest, but would not say if the authorities planned to remove the camp.
His deputy Begona Villacis told reporters the authorities had met the protesters and that “only 12 of them are really homeless”. She said the other camp members were activists and promised housing for the 12 homeless people by next week.
Carrera accused the City Hall of spreading false information and said everyone in the camp was without a home.
“This is not an activist camp, this is the only housing solution we have,” he said.
He said camp members had also raised their plight with parliament and the government.
There are more than 33,000 homeless people in Spain, according to data from the healthcare and social welfare ministry.
“We are not invisible,” said Carrera. “We do not want to spend another winter on the street.”
(Reporting by Juan Antonio Dominguez and Miguel Gutierrez; writing by Elena Rodriguez, editing by Andrei Khalip)