Press release from the Fish Elsewhere campaign, 16 May 2006.
Fish Elsewhere campaign
Release date: 16 May 2006
EU Votes to Steal Saharan Fish
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.
The former Legal Counsel to the UN Security Counsel, Mr. Hans Corell, comments on the EU's fisheries activities in Western Sahara.
Polisario has a case, but it should be pursued when the time is right, Court implies.
Notwithstanding four consecutive rulings of the EU's highest Court calling such a practice illegal, the European Parliament has just now voted in favour of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement that will be applied to the waters of occupied Western Sahara.