Refugees from Western Sahara demonstrated this week against a Norwegian company which is fishing in the country’s waters. According to the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, the company is violating international law.
Angry: The demonstrators accuse the Norwegian fishing vessel of being both pirates and thieves.
VG Nett (Norway)
29 May 2009
By Per Harald Borgen
It is the Norwegian company Sjøvik-gruppen which raises anger among refugees from Western Sahara, because one of the company’s vessels is operating offshore the country’s coastline.
With flags and loud calls, the Sahrawis – which the people is called – showed their aversion to what they see as a plunder of the natural resources of Western Sahara.
The demonstration took place on the wharf of the capital of the Canary Islands, Las Palmas, where the refugees are living after having fled their country, which is occupied by the neighboring state Morocco.
The slogans were directed against the Sjøvik-gruppen’s fishing vessel «Midøy Dakhla1», which is anchored in Las Palmas this week.
”All pirate vessels which fish and steal from our land, must leave”, was one of their demands.
They further labelled the Norwegian company as pirates and thieves, plundering Western Sahara of its resources.
The chairman of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, Ronny Hansen, disagrees strongly with the Norwegian Sjøvik-gruppen’s involvement in Western Sahara. He claims that the company is ignoring the UN’s opinions.
A demand from the UN is among other things that an occupying power shall not exploit an occupied country’s resources, unless it is in the interest of the occupied people.
“Western Sahara is illegally occupied by Morocco, and Sjøvik violates international law by helping Morocco steal Western Sahara’s fish. The people of Western Sahara is strongly against it, just look at the demonstration which has now taken place”, Hansen told VG Nett.
Embassy advices against.
1. secretary at the Norwegian embassy in Morocco, Mr. Børge Romsloe, does not want comment specifically on the Sjøvik-gruppen, but confirms that companies operating in Western Sahara could be in violation of international law.
Particularly if the involvement does not take place in accordance with the interests of the local population.
“Therefore, our policy is to urge companies to not get engaged in Western Sahara, and we expect Norwegian company to take their corporate social responsibility seriously”, he told VG Nett.
Ronny Hansen said that Sjøvik-gruppen should listen more carefully to the opinion of the Norwegian government regarding their involvement.
”They are doing this in complete disregard of the recommendations of the Norwegian government, and is on collision course with a broad Norwegian popular opinion”, Hansen said, adding:
“Furthermore, Sjøvik contributes to a legitimization of an illegitimate occupation”.
Hansen also says the company stands out from most other companies operating in the country, in that they explicitly support the occupation.
“Most companies separate business from politics. Sjøvik-gruppen, on the other hand, explicitly supports the occupation. They have, among other things, compared the Sahrawi people with the Saami people in Norway”, Hansen said.
According to Hansen, the Saami and the Sahrawi peoples’ fates are far from comparable.
”Two thirds displaced”
Hansen furthermore explains about a people that has been discriminated against and oppressed through decades.
DETESTED VESSEL: This is the vessel which infuriates the demonstrators. Here from the harbour in Las Palmas. PHOTO: WWW.WSRW.ORG
“Over the last years, the violence against Sahrawis has increased, and reports from Amnesty documents comprehensive discrimination. Actually, there are more Moroccan soldiers in Western Sahara than there are Sahrawis”, he told VG Nett.
He is particularly worried about the situation for all those who have been forced to flee Western Sahara after the Moroccan occupation started in 1975.
“Nearly two thirds of the population has been forced to flee the country due to the occupation”, Hansen said.
”And Sjøvik contributes to financing this occupation, he added.
VG Nett has been in contact with Sjøvik-gruppen, who declined to comment on the case.
Translated to English by WSRW. See original story here (in Norwegian)..
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