Stop phosphate trade with Morocco!


As the bulk carrier, Pilion, docked in Geelong on January 9 with phosphate from Western Sahara, the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) called on the fertiliser company Incitec Pivot to stop violating UN regulations by importing phosphate from Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa.

Farmers using Incitec Pivot's superphosphate are fertilising their land with a product made from phosphate rock which belongs to the people of Western Sahara. It is sold by Morocco without the Saharawi people's consent, and without any of the benefit going to them.

Western Sahara is a non-self-governing territory which, the United Nations Charter, has the right to self-determination. The UN also makes clear that the natural resources of a non-self-governing territory cannot be taken without the consent of its local population.

In 1976, Morocco invaded Western Sahara just as the former colonial power, Spain, was pulling out. Since then Morocco, has been selling phosphate and other natural resources, such as fish, and even sand, from Western Sahara.

The Saharawis fought the Moroccans from 1975 until a ceasefire was agreed in 1991 to allow the UN to run a referendum on self-determination. Despite the efforts of the UN, the Moroccans have refused to allow the referendum to be held, and have bashed, tortured, imprisoned and even killed the Saharawis in the occupied parts of Western Sahara who demonstrate in support of the referendum.

Many other Saharawis have had to endure up to 30 years of living in exile in refugee camps near Tindouf in south west Algeria.

The UN General Assembly and senior UN legal advisers argue that Morocco is breaching international law by exploiting the natural resources of Western Sahara without the Saharawi people's consent.

The Australian government has warned Australian companies about the risks associated with taking part in this trade.

Human rights activists facing daily persecution in occupied Western Sahara have called for international support in their campaign to stop Morocco from pillaging phosphate and other natural resources from Western Sahara.

The AWSA is calling on Australian fertiliser companies to work within the law. According to AWSA national president Nick O'Neill, this doesn't mean that they need to give up all trade with Morocco. "We have no objection to legitimate trade with Morocco. The best way to resolve this is for Australia and other members of the UN to insist that Morocco allow the referendum on self-determination for Western Sahara to take place as soon as possible."

[Cate Lewis is the secretary of the Victorian branch of Australia Western Sahara Association.]