Unionists to visit Saharawi Camps

October 11, 2008

Ron Guy and Garry Holliday, trade union activists with the Australian Workers' Union (AWU), and Margarita Windisch, a member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and Socialist Alliance candidate for the Maribyrnong council elections, will be part of a delegation attending the 6th congress of the Western Saharan trade union UGTSARIO.

The congress will be held in the refugee camps of southern Algeria, which neighbours Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Unions from around the world will be represented at the congress.

Ron Guy will be the official representative of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The delegation is supported by the AWU and the MEAA. Windisch, Guy and Holliday, long-term supporters of the Saharawi cause will also offer their skills to assist the Saharawi refugees.

Windisch will run writing workshops in the camps and bring back their stories to Australia. Holliday will teach kids how to play Aussie rules football after the Australian Football League donated a football teaching kit.

The three are members of the Australia Western Sahara Association. It will be Guy's second visit to the camps, the previous being in 2004 as part of the first Australian delegation to the refugee camps.

Windisch became involved when she heard Malainin Lakhal, secretary-general of the Union of Saharawi Writers and Journalists, who spoke at a packed function in Footscray in 2007.

"Even though Western Sahara is recognised as a country, it has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975", Windisch said. "Morocco is illegally selling the Saharawi people's resources, such as phosphate, to international companies, including Australian companies. Close to 200,000 Saharawi people live in very harsh conditions in the refugee camps in south-west Algeria, but very few people know about their plight."

Find out more about the situation of the Saharawi people by visiting the website of the Australia Western Sahara Association, which raises awareness and promotes the Saharawi people's cause in Australia, at . AWSA is campaigning for a free and fair referendum on self-determination for the last colony in Africa.

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