40 years of suffering for Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara
Letter first published in the Guardian
While the current refugee crisis across Europe makes headlines, the people of Western Sahara have been experiencing a refugee crisis for 40 years.
This week marks the 40th anniversary of Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara, which forced thousands of refugees into the Algerian desert. They are still there today, living in refugee camps, dependent on international aid. Last month these camps were devastated by severe flooding which has destroyed food and shelters, displacing 25,000 people.
Those who remained behind during the invasion now live under Moroccan occupation.
Despite the promise of a referendum in 1991 in which the people of Western Sahara would decide their future, the UN has failed to deliver. It has also failed to protect the people of Western Sahara from the torture, false imprisonment and sexual violence inflicted by the Moroccan state.
Meanwhile governments of the UK, EU and others collude in the exploitation of the Sahrawis’ rich resources.
While the UN has so far failed the people of Western Sahara, this refugee crisis is not going away. For as long as it continues, we stand beside the people of Western Sahara in their struggle for justice and self-determination.
John Gurr Coordinator, Western Sahara Campaign
Sidi Ahmed Messka President, Adala UK
Carne Ross Executive director, Independent Diplomat
John Hilary Executive director, War on Want
Joanna Allen Chair, Western Sahara Resource Watch
Craig Browne Western Sahara Action Forum
Bert Schouwenburg International officer, GMB
Christine Blower General secretary, National Union of Teachers
Danielle Smith and Violeta Ruano Sandblast
Dave Green National officer, Fire Brigades Union
Jenny Bourne Editor, Race and Class
Katriona Holmes Director, Knockengorroch
Sam Berkson Hammer and Tongue
Becky Finlay Hall and David Stothard Olive Branch Arts
Nicholas Pye Cambridge University Student Union
Christiane Perregaux Comité Suisse de soutien au peuple sahraoui
Cate Lewis Vice-president, Australia Western Sahara Association
Ron Guy Secretary, Australian Unions for Western Sahara
Tanja Brodtmann President, Freiheit für die Westsahara