5 February 2004
MADRID – Foreigners from non-EU countries have to ask permission to buy homes in what the Spanish government considers areas of “strategic interest”, it was reported Thursday.
They have to apply to the Ministry of Defence and show any criminal history, a photocopy of their passports, residence cards and plans for the homes they want to buy or build.
The law affects people living in the Bay of Cadiz near Gibraltar, Spain’s frontiers with Portugal near Huelva in the west, the border with France, from the Basque Country down to Catalonia, and the islands and coast of Galicia in the north-west of Spain.
According to a report in El Pais newspaper Thursday, the plans are based on a law dating from 1975 which defends national interests. The law was later developed after the modern Spanish Constitution was formed in 1978.
The law is designed to protect against potential terrorists attacks on areas near military bases.
The newspaper reports that the law is being increasingly applied in the past year.
There are 1,560 local councils in the affected areas, where foreigners can be subject to the ruling.
Lawyers have claimed that the local councils – conscious of central government’s war against terrorism – started to ask foreigners for these documents only about a year ago.
Juan Ramon Calvo, a notary or lawyer, said: “To me it seems an aberration when they started to ask for it more than one year ago.
“I talked with someone from the Ministry of Defence, and I told him ‘If someone named Bin Laden came in, I might ask him for his antecedence.
“But if it is a young man of 25 years old called Mohammad or a Peruvian, why do they need to be subjected to so much administrative stuff or to be controlled in this way?”
Rafael Arnaiz, of the Government College of Property Registrars, said colleagues had different experiences.
One had been asking for these documents for 20 years and another only asked if a foreigner was planning to build an isolated country house.
Another lawyer, from Tenerife, said: “It seems to be that the rigor with which this law is applied depends a little bit on each military zone.”
The Ministry of Defence itself has admitted that is not sure how many immigrants have been asked to submit these documents – or indeed on what criteria is a foreigner granted or refused permission for a house.
A spokesman said: “We do not have a certainty that anyone was denied the right to buy a house. And we have no record that anyone was refused because of a criminal record.”
Arnaiz believes that it was a law created in the more draconian era at the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.
“There were much fewer immigrants and a much tougher regime,” he said.
“The military establishment has been reduced since then as well as its influence.”
Subject: Spanish news