The fish stocks offshore Western Sahara do not belong to Morocco. In fact, Morocco’s claims to Western Sahara have been rejected by the International Court of Justice, and are not recognised by the UN. The resources of Western Sahara belong to its people, the Sahrawis.
If the EU enters into a fisheries agreement with Morocco from 2013 to fish offshore occupied Western Sahara, they would simultaneously give money to an illegal occupying power to take out the resources of the territory, in the disregard of the wishes of the resources’ legitimate owners. The EU would basically steal the natural resources away from under the nose of the Sahrawis.
The humanitarian situation for the Sahrawis is acute. A majority of the Sahrawi people fled their homeland in 1975, when Morocco ignored the opinion of the International Court of Justice, invaded Western Sahara to the UN’s condemnation, and bombed the Sahrawi settlements in Western Sahara with napalm and white phosphorus.
Since then, the Sahrawis have suffered from over 3 decades of exile and occupation.
The Sahrawi people living in the refugee camps in Algeria suffer from donor fatigue and malnutrition. Studies have shown that 1 in every 5 Sahrawi child is acutely malnourished. That is worse than what the UN establishes as being “an acute crisis”.
In the occupied territories, any person being critical to the illegal Moroccan presence, will risk being subjected to human rights violations. This has been documented, year after year, by leading international human rights organisations.
But the EU - that on one hand claims to support the UN peace process for Western Sahara - on the other hand directly supports this injustice through repeated unethical fisheries agreements. The previous agreement was stopped by the European Parliament in 2011. Now, the EU is trying to start allover again, with an agreement from 2013.
It would be ethically wrong for the EU to pay the occupation power Morocco to be able to fish in Western Sahara, while the people of Western Sahara, who own the fish, are suffering from malnutrition. The EU would simply be paying money to the wrong government.
The EU would in fact pay Morocco more to get access to fish, than they give in humanitarian aid to the Sahrawi owners of the fish, who suffer from malnutrition in the refugee camps. Buying the Sahrawis’ fish from Western Sahara’s occupation power, while the children in the refugee camps suffer from lack of protein, is a moral dilemma that the EU cannot escape from. Contributing to prolong the occupation means prolonging the sufferings of the Sahrawi people.
The Sahrawis still living in the occupied territory, find the EU’s plans to be highly unfortunate. All Sahrawi organisations in the occupied part of Western Sahara protest the agreement. They say they do not benefit from it.
The EU would never deal with Palestinian resources with the Government of Israel. So why is the case different in Western Sahara?
The Norwegian government has labeled similar natural resources engagement in Western Sahara for “a particularly serious violation of fundamental ethical norms e.g. because it may strengthen Morocco's sovereignty claims and thus contribute to undermining the UN peace process". The Fish Elsewhere! campaign cannot agree more.
The EU considers to pay Morocco to fish in occupied Western Sahara. An EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement from 2013 would be both politically controversial and in violation of international law.
The international Fish Elsewhere! campaign demands the EU to avoid such unethical operations, and go fishing somewhere else. No fishing in Western Sahara should take place until the conflict is solved.