A Spanish member of WSRW, Elena Pollán, was detained in her hotel in El Aaiún last Saturday, 8 January. Pollán and her two friends were forced to take a bus to Marrakech airport, accompanied by a plain-clothed police officer. Though no expulsion warrant was issued, they were involuntarily put on a flight to Madrid.
For Spanish Elena Pollán Gonzalez and Covadonga Canteli De Castro, and Argentinean Emilce Haydee Farias this was their fourth visit to the territory over the last few years.
In the 10 days they’ve spent in the territory, the three had been working on a radio program in collaboration with Saharawi women and had attempted to investigate illegal EU fisheries in the occupied territories.
But ever since their arrival in Western Sahara, the three young women had been followed and intimidated by Moroccan police officers.
Last Saturday evening, Pollán, Canteli and Farias were detained by 15 plain-clothed policemen at the Zemour hotel in El Aaiún, the capital of occupied Western Sahara. When their passports were taken from them, it was clear that they’d be kicked out of the country. Yet no reason for the expulsion was given, nor was there any official document justifying such an act.
Their expulsion is another confirmation of the information black-out that Morocco wishes to uphold over Western Sahara.
In the clip below, Pollán, Canteli and Farias comment on their visit to Western Sahara (in Spanish). Scroll down for an English transcription.
My name is Covadonga Canteli, and I’m a Spanish citizen. My name is Elena Pollán Gonzalez, and I’m a Spanish citizen. My name is Emilce Haydee Farias, and I’m an Argentinean citizen.
This is the fourth time we’ve travelled to El Aaiún, to continue to fight against the information black-out that has in place for 35 years. For a couple of years, we’ve been working with Saharawi women on compiling condemnations of violations and torture. Moreover, we investigate the plunder of Western Sahara’s natural resources by Morocco and European companies.
We’re aware that at present the possibilities to enter the Western Saharan territory are limited, as the Moroccan government upholds a strong information black-out and also blocks people from entering the territory. This way, the Moroccan armed forces operate in total impunity.
Apart from this difficulty, we consider it important to enter the territory in order to be able to spread and condemn the serious human rights violations that the Saharawi population is subjected to. And all the while the Spanish government and the European governments remain silent and complicit.
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.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.