Phosphate workers not permitted to demonstrate
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June 20th, workers at the phosphate mines in Western Sahara planned a demonstration in front of the offices of their employers. But before they managed to get started, they were stopped by Moroccan police.
Published 21 June 2007

The demonstration was planned to take place June 20th in front of the offices of the Moroccan state company OCP in El Aaiun, capital of Western sahara.

Most demonstrators were said to be Sahrawi union members at the phosphate mines in Western Sahara.

But before the demonstration really got started, it was stopped by Moroccan police and security forces. Many demonstrators were prevented from reaching the OCP offices by the Moroccan police.

According to the Sahrawi human rights organisation CODESA, dozens of workers were detained, and transported to the police station. After interrogations of approximately one hour, they were taken away, and released on different locations around in El Aaiun.

The police confiscated all the banners and cameras of the demonstrators. The banners contained slogans to stop the plundering of the natural resources of the occupied territory.

Sahrawi phosphate workers have for years been particuarly unhappy with the development since the Moroccan occupation. The Sahrawi community have been completely marginalised from the industry since 1975.

In 1968, before Morocco took control of the mines, practically all 1600 workers in the industry were Sahrawis. Today 1700 of the 1900 workers are Moroccan settlers.

Morocco exports phosphate to a dozen countries in the world. The Google Earth photograph above shows the conveyor belt that transports the phosphates from the mines out to the harbour.

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