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

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail