MEPs today voted in favour of a Fisheries Agreement that will allow European ships to fish off the coast of illegally occupied Western Sahara, despite claims that this violates international law. Amendments by Green and left-wing GUE groups achieved close to 200 votes, but were voted down, despite support from campaigners and members states like Sweden, Finland and Ireland, and rebellions from within the Socialist (PES) and Conservative (EPP) groups.
The Agreement, between the EU and Morocco, which has occupied Western Sahara for 30 years, will now go into effect after being ratified by the Council of Ministers. A European-wide coalition (www.fishelsewhere.org) is mounting pressure on EU member states to make a last ditch effort to exclude Western Sahara from the Agreement on Monday. If the Agreement proceeds unamended the fishelsewhere coalition has warned the European Commission that they could face a legal challenge in the European courts.
Nick Dearden of British anti-poverty campaign group War on Want, said earlier "The European Parliament have voted today to flout international law simply because it suits European commercial interests to do so. We have to look to members states to place the human rights of the Saharawi people above profits."
Carlos Wilson from Western Sahara Resources Watch, said: "For 30 years 165,000 refugees have lived in camps in the Algerian desert because the international community has failed to act. Today the EU has compounded this failure, by happily stealing the resources of those refugees from under their noses."
The Fishelsewhere campaign asks all supporters to write, before Monday, to their own Fisheries Minister to amend the EU-Moroccan Fisheries Agreement to exclude Western Sahara.
Notes to Editors:
1) For UK-based media information, call Nick Dearden on +44 207 549 0582 or +44 7932 335 464.
2) The campaign website, plus European press contacts, can be found at: www.fishelsewhere.org
3) In 1975, Morocco invaded the Western Sahara against the express wishes of the United Nations and International Court of Justice. Tens of thousands of Saharawi fled for their lives into the Algerian Desert, where 165,000 refugees still live today, in some of the harshest conditions on earth. Although the United Nations promised a referendum in Western Sahara in 1991, the peace process has been stalled. Since last summer, Morocco has harshly repressed Saharawi demonstrations in the Occupied Territory, where tens of thousands of Saharawi still live in a police state.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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