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The Western Sahara Campaign UK is a member of:

About Western Sahara

• Western Sahara is the only Territory in Africa recognised by the UN as never having completed the process of decolonisation

• 165,000 refugees from the conflict still live in tents in refugee camps in the Algerian desert, dependent on inadequate international aid.

• No country in the world recognises Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

• The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Western Sahara’s government in exile operating from the refugee camps, is a full member of the African Union and is recognised by over 80 countries. Morocco withdrew from the African Union in protest.

• Human rights violations against the Saharawi people are well documented. Despite this the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara is the only modern peacekeeping mission (established since 1978) without a human rights mandate. The mission has an annual budget of around £35 million.

• Morocco divided Western Sahara with the “Berm,” a wall fortified with landmines.  At 1,553 miles long this is the world’s longest and oldest functioning separation wall.

• Between 1,000 and 1,500 Saharawi have disappeared since the early years of the conflict.  In 2013 Spanish forensic teams found the bodies of six adults and two children who disappeared in 1976. The report shows they were executed by the Moroccan military.

Political situation

Often known as Africa’s last colony, Western Sahara is the only part of Africa never to be allowed to complete the decolonisation process.  Situated between Morocco and Mauritania, during the colonial occupation of Africa, the Spanish colonised the territory.

Following a 1975 ruling from the International Court of Justice determining that the Saharawi people had the right to self-governance, based upon the outcome of a referendum on self-determination, Morocco and Mauritania invaded the territory. Many Saharawi fled into the desert and over the border into Algeria to escape napalm bombing.

After Mauritania’s withdrawal in 1979, Morocco occupied the entre nation. The bloodshed and conflict between the Saharawi and the Moroccan Government continued apace, with the better-equipped Moroccan forces able to subdue the Saharawi’s best efforts to secure independence.

In 1991 the UN brokered a ceasefire on the promise of a referendum in which the Saharawi people would choose between independence and integration with Morocco.  Over 40 years later that promise has never been delivered. The Moroccan Government has consistently acted to ensure the failure of such UN efforts, but a general lack of political will from the international community and failure to act by the UN  Security Council has allowed this to continue.

Today 165,000 individuals live in desert refugee camps, where they have been for over 40 years. Those that remained in the towns and cities of Western Sahara now live under  a brutal Moroccan occupation.  Those that support their right to self-determination face persecution and a range of human rights violations
Human rights

Police violence, false imprisonment, unfair trials, sexual violence, and torture are systematically perpetrated against the people of Western Sahara by the Moroccan state. These violations are enabled and emboldened by the failure of the members of the UN Security Council - including the UK - to uphold their obligation to provide a referendum on self-determination.

Not only has the UN failed in this obligation but it has repeatedly refused to mandate the UN Peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to monitor human rights.  This is despite repeated calls to do so from Saharawi, international human rights organisations and UN human rights experts. As a result, MINURSO is one of only a handful of missions without such a mandate, allowing violations to be enacted with impunity.

Read more about human rights here.

Natural Resources

Western Sahara is rich in natural resources, which the  EU and the international community exploit through trade deals with Morocco.  The profits from this illegal activity are helping to both fund and legitimise Morocco’s occupation.
• The EU has a fisheries deal with Morocco that includes the waters of Western Sahara.  This is despite the fact that it is not part of Morocco and against the wishes of the Saharawi people.   This means that EU boats are fishing in the Waters of Western Sahara.
• Moroccan companies grow tomatoes in Western Sahara to export to UK supermarkets.

• Morocco sells Western Sahara’s phosphates to various countries, where they are utilized in fertilizer production.

• Morocco sells sand from the Sahara for tourist beaches on The Canary Islands

Read more about the exploitation of Wester Sahara’s resources here.



The Western Sahara Campaign works in solidarity with the Saharawi people to generate political support in order to advance their right to self-determination and to promote their human rights. Our role is to lobby the UK Government and the EU. You can help us to ensure the UK does not ignore the voice of the Saharawi people.



Follow the news about EU's illegal fisheries in Western Sahara

The EU pays Morocco to fish in occupied Western Sahara.