Spanish media has over the course of the last week reported extensively on the arrival of the vessel Southwester, transporting 35,000 tons of sand from El Aaiún to Mallorca.
The Regional Government seized the Spanish authorities requesting a thorough inspection of both the vessel and the cargo, to ensure that European law had been respected. Civil society organizations, such as Amics del Poble Saharaui, a local support group of the Saharawi people on the Balearic Islands, were also warned of the arrival of the vessel. They denounced what they called “a further blow to the unpunished looting of resources”. The group requested the Spanish authorities to stop the activity, stating that the involved companies "take advantage of the illegal presence of Morocco in the former Spanish colony, in convenience with the Moroccan authorities to systematically squeeze the wealth of the Saharawi territory”.
All members of the autonomous Balearic parliament had joined a petition against the boat unloading the cargo, asking Government of Spain to intervene. That petition followed an institutional declaration issued by that same parliament earlier this year calling on all powers and economic agents to respect the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Balearics is not the only regional parliament to pass such declaration, in a wave of solidarity started by the Spanish Green Party, Equo.
El Mundo also refers to the reminder from the opponents that this is a violation of international law and the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 21st of December 2016. The court had specifically stated that Western Sahara is not part of Morocco, and that EU-Moroccan trade can only been applied to Morocco, not Western Sahara.
The Civil Guard accredited that the vessel had the required permits. After a brief delay, the unloading started Wednesday at noon in the presence of protesters from Amics del Poble Saharaui and of Saharawis.
The person in charge of the consignment stated, according to El Mundo, that they were not certain “if it is a plunder” since they do not yet “have all the information to form an opinion” on the mater, recognizing that they had been “surprised” by all the controversy generated in Palma.
A representative of the consigning firm, Lantimar, told the media that the sand would be used for construction purposes.
The importer, Golf Country Club Poniente de Calvià, told Diario de Mallorca that they were unaware of the origin of the sand.
On 26 May, Spanish media wrote that the importer Golf de Ponent was missing the required licences for its planned work, and that they had 2 months to get the papers in order. ABC reported that the Calvia Council House required the total stop of Golf de Ponent's activities as a precautionary measure.
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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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.
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