While Canary imports of stolen Saharawi sand continue with impunity, a group of Spanish and Saharawi activists – including a member of WSRW - is still facing penal sanction, precisely for denouncing the illegal trade.
On 5 October 2011, a group of Spanish and Saharawi activists had jumped into the water in front of the cargo vessel 'Dura Bulk' (IMO: 7325461), as it was discharging sand from occupied Western Sahara in the port of Tenerife, Canary Islands. Accusing the protesters of having accessed the port’s waters without permission, the harbour authorities imposed heavy fines onto the protesters: 60.000€ each.
“It is baffling that the very same authorities that allow and facilitate the discharges of sand from a country under occupation, worth millions of Euros, choose to threaten those who protest the theft”, said Julio Quílez from Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW).
Continuous protests by Saharawi sympathisers ensued, demanding the charges against the protesters be dropped. On 11 April, the harbour authorities decided to lower the fine to 90€ per protester. But even this is unacceptable. Mr. Quílez said it is a matter of principle. “We’ve decided to appeal, as we refuse to pay for having drawn attention to theft”, says Quílez.
The sand aboard the 'Dura Bulk' was destined for the cement factory Proyecto Dover S.L., located inside the harbour area.
Meanwhile, the sand-imports to Canary Islands continue. The 'Trio Vega' (IMO: 7116133) discharged a load of Saharawi sand in the harbour of Tenerife on 7 February this year. Like the 'Dura Bulk', the 'Trio Vega' is owned and managed by the shipping company Arabella Enterprise, based in Las Palmas. Two other vessels of Arabella Enterprise’s fleet are also regularly spotted frequenting the triangular sea-route between Setubal – El Aaiun – Las Palmas; the 'West Sky' (IMO: 6810201) and the 'Anja Funk' (IMO: 7120720).
One other vessel, not pertaining to Arabella Enterprise yet making multiple weekly trips to El Aaiun, is the UK-flagged 'Silver Sand' (IMO: 8843850). 'Silver Sand' returns its cargo to Las Palmas or Arguineguín, the wharf where construction company Granintra S.A. has a cement factory covering the south of Las Palmas.
Expensive swim: Each person was initially fined 60,000€ for this demonstration. The fine has been lowered to 90€, but the demonstrators refuse to accept even that.
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.
The military court in Rabat has convicted 25 Saharawi activists to shockingly tough sentences. All were arrested in relation to the Gdeim Izik protest camp; a peaceful manifestation disputing the Saharawi people’s continual marginalisation in their occupied country.
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