The fishermen's threat to indefinitely intercept the main road to the harbour last week, is said to be the reason why the police has decided to summon them to the police station for further questioning. The Moroccan police has taken the new step in spite of earlier promises not to persecute, but rather discuss to find a solution to their grievances.
As Western Sahara Resource Watch has previously written, the fishermen associations had on 25 May barred the entrance to Dakhla harbour, in protest of Morocco's irresponsable fish stock management and the socio-economic exclusion of Saharawi people althrough occupied Western Sahara. After the protest, the fishermen announced that if their demands were not taken seriously, they would proceed to cut-off the harbour until further notice.
The Saharawi fishermen call for adequate protection for the marine resources, want to see more revenues of the fishing sector ending up with the Saharawi people and the removal of corrupt officials from the sector.
"They are trying to scare us, so we would refrain from cutting off the harbour", says one of the fishermen. He went on to say that the subpoenas are part of a wider campaign, in which Saharawi who have defected to Morocco are used to exert pressure on their pro-independence relatives to thwart any further protests.
During Saturday's protest, the fishermen obstructed the transport of sardines to fish meal factories in El Aaiun - sardines which the fishermen claim have not been included in the official catch statistics, as they are the result of overfishing. Amid the protest, a large truck was pulled over, destroying an entire consignment of sardines.
The Saharawi fishermen associations in Dakhla - Nawrass, 'Sailors working onboard Fishing Vessels' and Qindil - regularly stage protests denouncing Morocco's plunder of Western Sahara's waters, which they feel does not benefit the Saharawi people. They are convinced that the fishing sector in Western Sahara brings about millions in revenues for the Moroccan treasury, but it ends up in the hands of a corrupt bunch of regime officials, not the Saharawi people.
Among those who are subpoenaed are Hamid El Koury Ould Elfaida (president of Nawrass), Mamettou Ould Magha (Secretary General of the association 'Sailors working onboard Fishing Vessels' and president of Qindil), Mansour Ould Elfali (vice-president of Qindil), Kabbar Baray (member of Nawras) and many others. Some of them claim to have been threatened by the police.
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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