Voice for the Voiceless: Illegal Property Seizure

23 Jun

According to the International Justice Mission, illegal property seizure is the “taking of property through violence, intimidation, communal pressures or fraud without any legitimate agreement between the rightful owner and the person assuming possession.” The issue of illegal property seizure is widespread. Across the globe, the strong are preying on the weak, robbing them of their home and their very livelihood, leaving entire families homeless and without income.

The Facts:

-In rural areas of developing countries, very few landowners execute wills and land is frequently passed through customary or traditional arrangement, often leaving women with a huge disadvantage.

-In 2007, less than 1% of the adult population in Rwanda held a legally valid written will and not one landowner had a legally valid title deed.

In Uganda, 30% of widows and orphans surveyed reported being victimized by property grabbing following the death of a parent or spouse.

-Even though rural women produce an an estimated 74% of the food in developing countries, they own less than two percent of the land.

-In China between 1998 and 2005, more than 1 million cases of illegal seizures involving at least 815,447 acres of land were reported.

-In China, an estimated 100 million farmers have been victims of property grabbing between 1994 and 2006. Between 2003 and 2005, the estimated resale of seized farmland brought in $600 billion USD, mostly to corrupt officials, rich developers, and construction companies.

-Even when they are compensated, Chinese farmers are lucky to get 1/50th of what their illegally seized land is worth.

-In China, about 80% of the nearly 12,000 square miles of land turned into new development zones as of 2004, had beed acquired illegally.

Often when land is seized illegally, farmers are woken up in the middle of the night and given only a few hours (or a few days at most) notice before bulldozers arrive on the scene to tear down their homes. Those that complain about these injustices are often beaten and jailed. These displaced farmers are forced to find new jobs, a nearly impossible task with such specialized skills and no land. Their families suffer and their children are malnourished and starving.

Our Lord is a lover of justice! We must pray, in accordance with the will of God, that the weak, the oppressed, the marginalized, are offered legal protection and are treated fairly. We must intercede on the behalf of the homeless, the displaced, those left empty-handed because of the greed of others. Let’s raise our voices for those whose cries are muffled by selfishness. Let’s take a stand for justice.

“Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.” -Deuteronomy 16:20

To find out more and get involved check out these websites:

The International Justice Mission

IJM Fact Sheets


2 Responses to “Voice for the Voiceless: Illegal Property Seizure”

  1. K June 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    It is quite surprising how property seizures are done through ‘legal’ and ruthless means as well in other countries. Here’s some examples of how it’s done in Korea.

    Loan sharks (loan companies) sniff around those in desperate need of money (but turned down by banks) and offer loans with ridiculous interest rate (max 49% per year as set by the law) for the purpose of property seizures. I’ve seen them, both the companies and victims when I had to work in Seoul District Court (in the archive department of civil affairs) for 2 years as part of my conscription service. I’ve gone through countless records and court rulings willingly and unwillingly. As long as every process remained ‘legal’, it was the companies who would always win in the end. Then they can ‘hire’ the executor (working for the courts) to remove the owner from whatever property, and the executor often hires thugs to forcefully remove the owners. The executor gets paid certain percentage of commission from the total value of property so they’re eager to hire and remove as quickly as possible. Some executors made $4 million in a year doing that. My ex-boss made $1 million last year as far as I know. (Thugs are often disguised in the name of ‘service company’ in Korea) After property seizure is complete they are often auctioned at courts for fast conversion to real currency.

    Often government will drive residents (who are renting government properties) out only offering minimum compensation (1/4 or less) for the removal. Then it would either sell the property or hire contractors, all in the name of redevelopment. Government is happy to redevelop, contractors are happy to make contracts, and the average people have nowhere to complain because it was all processed ‘legally’. One incident in 2009 led to 6 people dying and more being injured.

    At least those victimized over illegal property seizures could be helped in some way through legal protection but it is virtually impossible to help those victimized through ‘legal’ property seizures. Those with power and money will use any loopholes or unfair laws to maximize their gains but those with no connections or money will always be at the losing end.

  2. erikaearl June 24, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this with me! It’s devastating to hear, but it’s good to be informed. I can’t wait to see how you will make a difference in your country.
    With love,

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