Airbnb places occupied Western Sahara within Morocco

The global match-maker of private accommodation has delisted providers in Israeli settlements and Crimea, but seem to apply different standards to similar situations of occupation. Saharawis object.
Published: 08.12 - 2018 19:00Printer version    
The news that Airbnb last month removed from its website all listings located in illegal Israeli settlements was widely covered in international media. The decision was made prior to the publication of a Human Rights Watch report that was to be published the following day. See press release from Airbnb [or download].

Following the news, Times of Israel quoted an Airbnb official saying that “In the statement we issued on Monday, we noted that we have developed a framework for evaluating how we should treat listings in occupied territories around the world. Western Sahara is one example of a place where we will use this framework,” the official stated.

The problem of Airbnb's litings have not yet been settled. As of 8 December 2018 there were 51 listings in the town of Dakhla, nine in El Aaiún and one in Smara, all on occupied land.

The issue is controversial, as the providing of listings contributes to the settlement, colonisation and occupation of the territory. Only a few months ago, representatives of the Saharawi reported a tourist operator to French police for violating French laws of colonisation . Near all of the hosts in the town of Dakhla mention the easy access to the controversial Moroccan-foreign tourist kitesurfing sector by the beach. The sector largely employs settlers, and the representatives of Western Sahara have not given Airbnb permission to market listings in the occupied territory.

However, the problem of Airbnb's listings in Western Sahara is even bigger than this:
  • The company refers to cities in Western Sahara as being located in Morocco. All listings are presented in a country in which they are not. This applies to all maps. Airbnb's representation of Western Sahara as part of Morocco is not in line with the United Nations position. Type in the place name "Laayoune", and the alternative "Laayoune, Morocco" will appear. No state in the world recognises Western Sahara as being part of Morocco.
  • Places in Western Sahara are written in accordance with Moroccan, not Saharawi, writing practices. "Laayoune" should be written "El Aaiún".
  • The hosts themselves present false statements about the territory. "Excursion Sea and Desert is a travel and tourism agency based in Dakhla, Morocco", one of the listings writes. "The only camping site in Morocco accessible with a flight", another writes. Around half of all hosts in Western Sahara make references such as "Moroccan living room", "the room is decorated with Moroccan arts", "we can prepare typical Moroccan home made dishes" etc.

    “We call on Airbnb to apply the same policy on similar legal situations, and immediately implement its framework to the occupied Western Sahara. The occupied part of Western Sahara should not be dealt with differently only because it is a less known occupation than the one of Palestine”, Sara Eyckmans of Western Sahara Resource Watch stated.

    People in the occupied territory and refugees abroad have increasingly taken to social media to protest Airbnb's practices.

    After the critique of double-standards, Airbnb added further elements to its original press release of 19 June. Among the new information, is that the company had earlier removed listings in Crimea.

    It is not clear why listings still appear in occupied Western Sahara. Find here a good study from the Policy Department of the European Parliament, regarding the legal similiarities between Palestine, Crimea and Western Sahara. The study was made before the four different court cases in the Court of Justice of the EU in 2016 and 2018 stating that Morocco has no right to Western Sahara.


    Since you're here....
    WSRW’s work is being read and used more than ever. But our financial situation is tough. Our work takes time, dedication and diligence. But we do it because we believe it matters – and we hope you do to. If everyone who reads our website or likes us on Facebook, would contribute to our work – 3€, 5€, 27€ … what you can spare – the future of WSRW would be much more secure. You can donate to WSRW in less than a minute here.



    28.05 - 2020 / 28.05 - 2020World Bank removed erroneous maps
    27.05 - 2020 / 27.04 - 2020Russia-Morocco controversial fisheries deal on the horizon
    26.05 - 2020 / 26.05 - 2020Austrian chemical giant says no to Western Sahara trade
    13.05 - 2020 / 11.05 - 2020Germany thumbs down OCP credit in Western Sahara  
    11.05 - 2020 / 09.05 - 2020HeidelbergCement expands in occupied Western Sahara
    10.05 - 2020 / 08.05 - 2020Equinor will no longer export gas to occupied Western Sahara
    09.05 - 2020 / 08.05 - 2020Kiwi importers ignore government advice on Western Sahara
    08.05 - 2020 / 04.05 - 2020Research service of Bundestag analyses Morocco's settlement policy  
    07.05 - 2020 / 27.12 - 2018Caterpillar trucks carry conflict minerals
    04.05 - 2020 / 24.04 - 2020First overview of gas imports into occupied Western Sahara
    18.04 - 2020 / 27.08 - 2010Support Western Sahara Resource Watch
    08.04 - 2020 / 12.07 - 2019Portugal energy consultants fail in geography
    30.03 - 2020 / 26.03 - 2020Africa main importer of frozen Saharawi fish
    26.03 - 2020 / 25.03 - 2020What is Continental negotiating with OCP?
    18.03 - 2020 / 18.03 - 2020 EU Commission backtracks on labelling Western Sahara goods
    16.03 - 2020 / 16.03 - 2020German organisations condemn Continental's conflict conveyor
    09.03 - 2020 / 06.03 - 2020EU Parliament set for blind landing of aviation deal
    08.03 - 2020 / 06.03 - 2020Brexit UK risks copying EU’s Sahara flaws
    05.03 - 2020 / 24.11 - 2018Here is the EU Council's legal advice on fishing in occupied waters
    05.03 - 2020 / 05.03 - 2020Polisario files lawsuit against Kiwi pension fund


    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.
    EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


    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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
    Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


    Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
    Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


    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. News Archive 2020 News Archive 2019 News Archive 2018 News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

    Register for our English newsletter:

    These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy