Unrecognised Documents and the Right to Nationality: The Case of Western Sahara

Published: 28/Mar/2023
Source: Armed Groups and International Law (blog)

By: Andrea Marilyn Pragashini Immanuel

Since 1976, after the end of Spanish colonial domination, Western Sahara has been considered a non-self-governing territory. The legal status of the territory remains disputed with Morocco occupying a part of the territory and the Polisario Front, a national liberation movement, exercising control over the remaining part. Sahrawis live in the occupied territory, in the territory under the control of the Polisario Front, and thousands of Sahrawis live mainly in refugee camps in Algeria. In 1976, the Polisario Front declared the creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and currently, SADR is a member of the African Union. Although the SADR is recognised by about 43% of UN member states, the UN does not recognise Moroccan or SADR sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Since the legal status of Western Sahara is disputed, so too is the status of Sahrawis. SADR/ Polisario Front issues legal identity documents to Sahrawis within Western Sahara as well as in Algeria. These documents include passports, birth certificates and national identity cards (see hereherehere and here). These documents, for instance, enable travel out of the refugee camps in Algeria and travel to states that recognise these documents such as Mauritania. While some Sahrawis have accepted Moroccan nationality, others could be considered stateless. Yet, as mentioned, many Sahrawis including those who might be considered stateless possess SADR documents. However, the usefulness of these documents is limited since these documents remain unrecognised by the majority of states. Moreover, the author of these documents is the Polisario Front, a non-state actor and the documents are issued as SADR documents, a widely unrecognised state. This raises questions about the legitimacy of these documents. In this regard, this post briefly explains that, despite the problems related to these SADR documents, these documents might have implications for securing the right to nationality of the Sahrawis.

Read further: https://www.armedgroups-internationallaw.org/2023/03/28/unrecognised-documents-and-the-right-to-nationality-the-case-of-western-sahara/

Themes: ID Documents and Passports, Statelessness
Regions: Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara)
Year: 2023