A Moroccan from the Rif region in the far north of Morocco had been skippering a fishing boat in Western Sahara which was coming to the end of its days. Then, last summer, it sank.
During the following year, a complicated case began in which the captain allegedly said that he was forced to lie about the conditions under which the small vessel sank.
In the last few months the captain has been conducting a sit-in at the Dakhla office of the Ministry of Fisheries but with no response.
Finally, in frustration, and in protest over the corrupt system in the sector, he ended up setting himself on fire on 30 March and died from burns the next day in hospital in Rabat. He was flown to the Moroccan capital thanks to a collection among friends attempting to save his life.
Images and videos of the self-immolation and the injuries have been circulating on social media since the incident took place.
The wife of the captain has gone online to confirm the stories of corruption, injustice, threats and falsification of official documents, including the recording of the catches on board the vessel. He claimed that only half the catch would be recorded.
Demonstrations in his hometown followed his death, which has echoes of the self-immolation of Bouazizi, the Tunisian market stall holder who set the Arab Spring in train. Even more, the death of a fish vendor, who was crushed to death in a rubbish van trying to rescue confiscated swordfish that he had just bought last October in Al Hoceima, another town of Morocco’s most insubordinate region, the Rif.
The Saharawi Society for Monitoring Natural Resources and Environmental Protection published a statement sending condolences to the family of the deceased, issued a statement making the following demands: - the opening of an urgent investigation into the case of the self-immolation, including the details of the sinking of the vessel and catches from the vessel. - an international investigation into all the activities of companies that are present in the province in flagrant violation of international law; - calling on the United Nations to create an international mechanism for monitoring and supervising the dossier of natural resources of Western Sahara, pending a political solution on the status of the non-self-governing territory.
WSRW has on several occasions in the past documented environmental mismangement of the stocks in the occupied waters. Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since 1975.
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.
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