FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Saharan Fish and the EU

by NICK DEARDEN

A decades-old, impoverished refugee population, tens of thousands of settlers, a 1000-mile wall, a stalled peace process and now an intifada in an occupied territory. This is not a description of Palestine, but a territory known as Western Sahara, a few hundred miles from the Canary Islands, which was occupied by Morocco in 1975. In 2006, Saharawi refugees will commemorate 30 years–a lifetime to many of them–in the Algerian desert waiting for the international community to live up to its promises to give them a referendum on self-determination over their homeland.

A world away, in Brussels, the European Union is putting the finishing touches to an agreement which will hinder that process still further. The EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is similar to a host of deals being signed down the West African coast, allowing European fishing access to African waters to make up for the over-fishing of European waters in recent decades. But this deal has one exception: it will allow EU boats to fish in the illegally occupied water of a country which the West has done its best to forget.

International law has been clear on Western Sahara since 1975 when the International Court of Justice ruled that Morocco had no claim to the Spanish colony. Two weeks later the Moroccan Army marched in regardless, and refugees fled for their lives into the Algerian desert. Although the United Nations General Assembly “deeply deplore[d]” the Moroccan Occupation, and the Security Council called for immediate withdrawal, no action followed. Then, as now, the great powers of the world preferred to accommodate the expansionist dreams of the Moroccan monarchy than implement justice for a few thousand refugees.

Liberation was left to the Polisario Front, representatives of the Saharawi in exile, who fought and recaptured some of their land. In the last three decades they have built a society in the desert, with 95% literacy and a democratic government in which women play a leading role, and which has ruled out forever the use of terrorism as a means of obtaining justice. Former UN Envoy to the territory (and Secretary of State under Bush senior), James Baker, said that it was a society the West should be championing “from a strictly human-rights standpoint”, if only it wasn’t so important to “maintain close relationships with Morocco”.

When Polisario agreed to lay down its weapons in 1991, it was on the promise that the UN would organise a referendum. Even when the Polisario made its ‘historic compromise’–that illegal Moroccan settlers too would be allowed to vote in their referendum–in a proposal that obtained unanimous support from the UN Security Council, Morocco blocked it. The proposal’s designer, Baker later resigned, saying recently: “I’m sure the Saharawi are going to say, wait a minute, what do we have to do here to get a shot at self-determination?” The lack of will by the West to go any further than sticking their hand in the air once a year, is played out in Minurso, the UN mission to Western Sahara, which was aptly described by former deputy chair Frank Ruddy as “a mission that is doing so little that if all of its members went on strike no one would notice”.

Now EU countries plan to compound their failure by stealing the wealth of those it has deserted from under their noses. Commissioner Borg, responsible for European fisheries, protests that the Agreement doesn’t even mention Western Sahara. But that’s exactly the point. By failing to define Morocco’s southern border, it allows Morocco to decide where to apply the Agreement, knowing full well that they will apply it to Saharawi waters. El Ayun, Western Sahara’s capital, alone accounts for 40% of Morocco’s total fish catch, by far the largest proportion from any port.

The Saharawi will see almost no benefit from the Agreement. Unsurprisingly, it’s the corporations that control fishing in Western Sahara, mostly Moroccan or Spanish, that will gain most. Even through the employment that filters down to ordinary workers, the majority are likely to be Moroccan settlers, and not Saharawi.

Previous agreements with Morocco have also allowed fishing in Saharawi waters. But this is different in that trade unions, NGOs and politicians from across Europe have come together to try and stop the inclusion of Western Sahara in the new Agreement. This renewed interest may be due to the thirty-year anniversary of the occupation, or because even the US, when signing its Free Trade Agreement with Morocco in 2004, specifically ruled out application to Western Sahara.

It probably helped that last year Morocco embarked on new round of human rights abuses in the occupied territory itself. The occupied territory is still home to tens of thousands of Saharawi who didn’t leave in 1975 and now live alongside Moroccan settlers in a police state, unable to advocate independence or display their flag. This blanket of silence was broken last summer as a small ‘intifada’ broke out after peaceful demonstrations were fiercely repressed by Moroccan security forces. One young demonstrator, Hamdi Lambarki, was beaten to death. Many other human rights activists were arrested and incarcerated in El Ayun’s infamous ‘Black Prison’, where prisoners have been on hunger strike against ill-treatment and torture.

It isn’t too late to stop the EU plunder. A coalition is rapidly building across Europe to ensure that human rights and international law come–for once–before Western profit. It’s time to bring an end to the longest running conflict in Africa, and end the Occupation of Africa’s last colony.

The Agreement will come before the European Parliament in the next two months. To contact your MEP go to: www.fishelsewhere.org

NICK DEARDEN works for the London-based War on Want. He can be reached at: ndearden@waronwant.org

 

 

Nick Dearden is director of the Global Justice Now and former director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail