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.

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail