All workers of a Polish state owned company in occupied Western Sahara have just been pulled out from the territory 'because of political reasons'.
The staff of 19 Polish citizens were last week-end evacuated from Western Sahara, according to the Polish news service RMF on 24 August. RMF had been in contact with employees of the company, who arrived Warsaw airport on Saturday evening.
"The decision was taken for political reasons", an employee told RMF, wanting to remain anonymous.
The company that operated in Western Sahara, Geofyzika Kraków, was a subsidiary of the Polish state owned oil company PGNiG Group. Representatives of the people of Western Sahara had not been contacted prior to the operation, violating a key prerequisite for being in line with international law, according to the UN.
Western Sahara Resource Watch on 28 June published the report 'Skónczmy Poszukiwania Razem', documenting how the company worked on a licence with the Moroccan state owned company ONHYM in the occupied territory. No state in the world recognises the territory as being part of Morocco.
Saharawi groups were the ones originally uncovering the operations, and they protested the engagement. Also WSRW protested the engagement, in a letter to the company on 27 June 2016. PGNiG responded to WSRW in a letter on 1 August 2016 that it believed it did nothing wrong. It stated it operated in line with local laws.
The employee had specifically told that the decision to evacuate was not of security reasons.
"Only in June, we had problems with subcontractors who threatened with strike. Eventually we came to an agreement and the work gained momentum. Therefore, the decision to evacuate came as a surprise to all of us", he added.
According to the media report, the company left behind all their equipment on site, and their contract had been broken.
The news service speculates that the departure could be related to a contract that the same company had signed with Algeria in late April.
The Peace and Security Council of the African Union in 2015 warned that companies operating in Western Sahara are not welcome in other AU member states.
RMF has asked PGNiG regarding the evacuation of its workers, and is waiting for answer.
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