Thousands of Saharawis protest against San Leon Energy
Massive numbers of Saharawi refugees gathered last weekend to send a clear message to Irish oil company San Leon Energy which is looking for oil in their occupied homeland: "San Leon: go home". Find high resolution footage of the protest, free of charge.
Two weeks ago, San Leon Energy announced that its exploratory drilling in the Tarfaya Block had revealed gas shows. San Leon had been drilling in the larger part of the border-overlapping Tarfaya Block, which is is located in Western Sahara - a UK size territory which Morocco invaded 40 years ago this November. The company intends to renew its exploration license in order to undertake further seismic surveying on the site.
"We completely reject the activities of those companies which are plundering our resources on a daily basis. As you can see, the people live in exile in brick-houses and tents. So we strongly, condemn the illegal exploitation of our resources", said a young Saharawi woman taking part in the protest. Her testimony can be viewed in the videos below.
Ignoring the Saharawi people's rights completely, San Leon chose to strike a deal with the Moroccan government to look for oil in the occupied territory. This has caused frustration and anger with the Saharawis, who - as a direct result of the ongoing occupation - are forced to live in refugee camps in the Algerian desert, or under the brutal rule of the Moroccan authorities in their occupied homeland.
The San Leon drilling is the first onshore drilling operation in the history of Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation. It is expected that a possible oil find will only entrench Morocco's already uncompromising position in the UN led peace talks, making the chances of a peaceful resolution to this long-lingering conflict ever more slim.
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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.