Homeless people almost suffocate to death following teen attack on squat

By Mark Viales

A group of homeless people almost suffocated to death in their sleep last month after two teenagers broke into a squat and emptied a fire extinguisher in the room. 

One of them, Sally (not her real name), an English senior citizen and cancer patient who has lived in Gibraltar for over 30 years, said she feared for her life.

“At 5am some kids on motorbikes broke down the door and sprayed the whole room with a fire extinguisher, suffocating us while we slept,” she said. “It burned our eyes and we choked on the toxic substance before we rushed out for our lives.”

Sally said that the incident was not reported for fear of losing another ‘makeshift shelter’ where numerous people with nowhere to go made their home.

“It is awful to have to move around from place to place to search for a roof over our heads,” she said. “Nothing is ever certain and there is always the risk of vandalism and harassment, not to mention the police coming in the middle of the night and telling you to move on.”


Sally and her partner arrived in Gibraltar initially in 1988, falling pregnant during that time, and returned to the Rock in 1991 with their two-year-old child in order to find employment.

They rented an apartment locally for eight years before purchasing a house and then selling it for a profit in 2004 in order to move to the countryside in France.

After the ‘failed experiment’ the family retraced their steps back to Gibraltar two years later to try and regain control of their lives amidst extreme financial difficulty.

Following years of relative stability, the spiral turned downwards once more when Sally’s partner was laid off from his construction job in April last year.

“He was working without a contract and, despite being told that he would be taken on permanently, he and everyone else were fired,” said Sally, who also worked for many years in Gibraltar as an accountant until she was diagnosed with a severe spinal condition in 2011.

Despite moving to La Linea for financial reasons, the couple was forced to move in with their daughter and her boyfriend in what Sally described as ‘unsustainable conditions’.

“We were no longer able to afford the rent, so we moved in with my daughter and her boyfriend in their flat in Gibraltar,” she said. “It was very cramped and he eventually kicked us out in September this year.”


It was at this point that Sally and her husband’s world collapsed around them and the sombre reality of being officially homeless in Gibraltar struck.