Discrimination over the right to housing in OCP, local workers say

Moroccan workers of the state-owned phosphate company, Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), benefit from housing programmes. Their Saharawi colleagues say they don’t.
Published: 05.04 - 2012 21:43Printer version    
For years, OCP has been providing housing for its Moroccan workers and their families. But it appears that Saharawi workers, living on their land under occupation, don’t benefit from this advantage.

Since Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara in 1975, OCP has been exploiting the Fos Boucraa mines, located around 100 kilometres from the Western Saharan capital El Aaiun. Ever since the take-over, Saharawi workers at Fos Boucraa have been massively replaced by Moroccan settlers, especially in senior positions. Today, the Saharawi workers themselves claim to be a minority in the company’s workforce, not exceeding 200 labourers on a total staff of about 1.700.

But according to some of the Saharawi workers, the discrimination doesn’t end there. At a recent meeting between OCP officials and the construction company Al Omran, the latter supposedly agreed to build houses in Agadir and Marrakech for OCP’s employees. Saharawi employees objected to the discriminatory advantage favouring Moroccan settlers and demanded housing in El Aaiun or the financial equivalent thereof, in order to build houses for themselves in Western Sahara.

During a meeting between OCP representatives and the workers in El Aaiun on 29 February 2012, OCP appeared reluctant to discuss the problem, according to reports from the occupied territory. For Saharawi workers’ representative, Mouloud Amidane, this was one time too many. Tired of consistently unfulfilled promises, he refused to leave the meeting room, triggering his peers to join him in a sit-in. The management decided to end the meeting there and then.

Mouloud Amidane was born in 1965 in El Aaiun. He has been employed at OCP Phosboucraa, Department of Management in El Marsa, since 1986. He is a member of the Moroccan national trade union UGTM (General Workers Union in Morocco), and in his second consecutive term as workers' representative. He is currently also a member of the committee of dialogue with the administration.

About one week after the contentious meeting, on 8 March, employee representatives purportedly agreed to OCP’s proposed constructions in Morocco during a meeting to which Amidane was not invited. Being denied the minutes of that meeting, in addition to having been denied a visit by the company’s doctor and pressure being exerted on his family and Saharawi co-workers, Mouloud Amidan conducted a hunger strike from March 9 to 14, in the meeting room that he had still not left.

On 13 March, Amidane received notice that he will be "removed from the controls of the company" if he does not justify his absence without leave since March 1. A meeting with the manager on 27 March came to nothing. Two days later, a sit-in claiming respect for workers' rights and solidarity with trade unionists brought together 120 people.

Amidane’s Saharawi colleagues claim that the security level of the company has been increased: more than one hundred officers from a private security company and 12 dogs have been added to the corporate security teams.

Since taking over the Fos Boucraa mines in Western Sahara in 1975, OCP has been gradually laying off Saharawi.  Benefits acquired by the Saharawi during the Spanish colonial period were taken from them. Some still claim the right to receive retirement benefits, for example, or to be treated equally to the Moroccan workers in terms of pay scales and promotion.

OCP has been running housing programmes since the seventies. Saharawi workers say they have never benefited from this advantage. They claim that 1.000 to 1.500 Saharawi workers who were at one point employed by Fos Boucraa, may have never received housing assistance.




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.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


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.
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.

WSRW.org News Archive 2018
WSRW.org News Archive 2017
WSRW.org News Archive 2016
WSRW.org News Archive 2015
WSRW.org News Archive 2014
WSRW.org News Archive 2013
WSRW.org News Archive 2012
WSRW.org News Archive 2011
WSRW.org News Archive 2010
WSRW.org News Archive 2009
WSRW.org News Archive 2008
WSRW.org News Archive 2007
WSRW.org 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