Pushed for space, a Spanish cemetery has begun placing stickers on thousands of burial sites with lapsed leases as a warning to relatives that their ancestors face possible eviction.
Jose Abadia, deputy urban planning manager for Zaragoza in Spain's northeast, said today that the city's Torrero graveyard had already removed remains from some 420 crypts, and reburied them in common ground.
He said the cases involved graves whose leases had not been renewed for 15 years or more. Torrero, like many Spanish cemeteries, no longer allows people to buy grave sites, instead leasing them out for periods of five or 49 years.
Abadia said 7,000 of the graveyard's 114,000 burial sites leases had run out, many of which occurred because relatives — or caretakers — had died themselves, or moved house and failed to renew the contract.
In other cases, family descendants no longer wanted to pay for relatives' graves, he added.
Abadia said the graveyard began stepping up its search for defaulters around two years ago, with relatives or caretakers given six months to respond.
The stickering campaign was planned to coincide with the 1 November Roman Catholic holiday, on which people customary visit graveyards.
He said that since then hundreds of people had rang to make inquiries about the status of their relatives' graves.
It's a case of graveyard management, "not to make money" as graveyards have limited space, he said.
"If we keep on building spaces for human remains, where are we going to end up? ... It's a problem that is affecting big city cemeteries more and more."