AWSA Press Release: Australia urged to make Western Sahara imports illegal

Australia Western Sahara Association – Press Release, 25 March 2015

Following the inaugural International conference on the illegal exploitation of Western Sahara resources held in Melbourne on 20 March, the Australia Western Sahara Association called on the Federal Government to prohibit Australian company trade in Western Saharan resources from the occupied territory and to push the UN to force a breakthrough in the 40 year stalemate of Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.

Professor Stephen Zunes states that “International law makes it clear that Morocco has no entitlement to control and exploit Western Sahara’s natural resources (…cont. )”

“International law makes it clear that Morocco has no entitlement to control and exploit Western Sahara’s natural resources.  Its continued occupation in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions and landmark World Court decision makes a mockery of the authority of the United Nations and its efforts to facilitate a just outcome based on the Saharawi people’s right to democratic self-determination” said Professor Stephen Zunes.

International lawyers told the conference that Australia should formally recognise the Western Sahara Republic (SADR) which governs for the majority of Saharawis (in exile) and controls part of its territory.

As the 7th largest importer of Western Sahara-sourced phosphate rock (940,000 tonnes in 2014) Australia should also ban the trade in ‘pillaged’ resources that are not expressly permitted by or are of direct benefit to the Saharawis.

Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara gives it control of 75% of the world’s remaining phosphate rock and only entrenches Morocco’s power, given the growing demand for this non-renewable product. Three Australian fertiliser companies have imported the rock – Incitec Pivot, Wesfarmers and Impact. The latter stopped imports from Western Sahara when purchased by a Swiss company. Wesfarmers CSBP imports are on hold while they trial a new process allowing them to source the material elsewhere 

Jeffrey Smith, Canadian International lawyer said “The exploitation of resources from Western Sahara has never been profitable’, but that ‘Morocco’s motivation is the in-migration of Moroccan nationals to work in mining, thus helping secure the territory and build international acceptability of the annexation. 

The conference was told that easily accessed resources such as phosphate and oil had already been extracted and the world had now turned to Africa, Latin America and Mexico; countries that had tenuous control over their resources, poor infrastructure and weak capability in dealing with corruption. This and the illegality, at least by international law, of receiving resources from an occupied territory, was leading to divestment in companies trading with Morocco.

Kamal Fadel, the Saharawi representative in Australia, said it was crucial to stop Morocco’s plunder of Western Saharan resources. SADR has signed contracts with several mining companies such as Hanno Resources that employ Saharawi geologists to explore the liberated territory resource opportunities. SADR says it will cooperate with all its neighbours, including Morocco, to achieve stability and prosperity and will allow Moroccan settlers to remain as long as they respect the laws of a fully independent Saharawi state. 

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