Source: European Network on Statelessness
Aminetou Errer Bouzeid, LEFRIG Project Coordinator and Social Worker
The exact number of people who were forcibly displaced in the 1970s to the Tindouf refugee camps set up by the Algerian state is unknown, but estimated at hundreds of thousands of people. The roots of their displacement can be traced back to colonial Spain’s actions. The Saharawi Collective Youth Association LEFRIG was established to raise awareness about the colonial past that led to this contemporary displacement and statelessness.
In the 1970s, the colonial Spanish withdrew from the Western Sahara and the territory was occupied by Morocco and Mauritania. This violent occupation was supported by the international community in order to exploit the coastal and in-land resources of the Western Sahara. In response to the occupation, the Saharawi national liberation movement was founded by the Polisario Front, calling for the establishment of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. The resulting War of Independence then triggered the displacement of Saharawi people, formerly viewed as Spanish subjects.
This international fraud remains in place today, preventing the Saharawi people from enjoying their right to self-determination as a nation, including their right to manage their own natural resources. Since the colonial period, this occupation has led to the exploitation of resources through commercial agreements and exercises which enact violence against its people, creating three generations of refugees to-date. The will of the Saharawi people is that the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic manage its own resources, which are presently in the hands of European companies, protected by Morocco’s militarily occupation of the territory. We argue that in the construction of nation-States as human organizations created to manage a territory, a natural component of State building is the management of its territory by its inhabitants.