Reports 03/04/2023

Working, Why? Labor Rights and Occupation in Western Sahara

The report 'Working, Why? Labor Rights and Occupation in Western Sahara,' published by Novact and ACAPS, reveals that Sahrawi workers face precarious labor conditions in the territory occupied by Morocco.

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Novact i ACAPS

Labor discrimination in access to employment, difficulties in unionizing, lack of social protection, and daily violations of their fundamental rights are common among Sahrawi workers, who are often relegated to poorly paid and precarious jobs in Moroccan companies that illegally exploit the natural resources of Western Sahara.

This report has been prepared by experts in labor rights and human rights in the context of occupation, such as Western Sahara, and has involved the collaboration and testimonies of Sahrawi activists living in occupied Western Sahara. The research aims to analyze the current situation of labor rights in the context of the occupation of Western Sahara, a region that has been a subject of conflict and controversy for decades. It seeks to provide a preliminary understanding and systematization of what we know and what we still need to know on this issue

Picture: Marcello Scotti

The document focuses on several key aspects, including the right to work, discrimination in employment, working conditions, labor rights, and women’s participation in the labor market. It analyzes the labor situation and labor rights in the territory of Western Sahara, which has been under Moroccan occupation for over four decades, in relation to the impact of work in the context of occupation and the resistance of the Sahrawi people: working conditions, discrimination, difficulties in unionizing, systematic repression, and violations of fundamental rights, the occupier’s labor market structure, and more.

According to the report, Sahrawi workers face a range of challenges, including discrimination in access to employment, labor exploitation, lack of social protection, and systematic violations of fundamental rights, such as the right to unionize, among others. It also highlights the lack of employment opportunities for women in the region, who often are forced to work in the informal sector due to gender discrimination and a lack of opportunities. The report also emphasizes the precariousness of employment for Sahrawi women, who often work in the informal market or depend on Moroccan authorities for their subsistence and are frequently discriminated against in terms of pay and social coverage. Due to the informality of their work, they lack access to justice to claim their rights.

On the other hand, it points out that the economy of Western Sahara is dominated by Moroccan companies that benefit from the illegal exploitation of Sahrawi natural resources, especially phosphate and fishing. Meanwhile, Sahrawi workers are often relegated to poorly paid and precarious jobs in these companies. Employment in Western Sahara is primarily concentrated in the fishing, mining, and agribusiness sectors. Lack of transparency in the management of Western Sahara’s natural resources has led to illegal exploitation by foreign companies, often resulting in labor abuses and human rights violations.

The research concludes that the labor situation in Western Sahara is precarious, and urgent action is needed to ensure the labor rights of Sahrawi workers. It also adds that without guaranteeing the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people, other rights will continue to be violated. With this report, NOVACT and ACAPS aim to shed light on the systematic violation of human rights in occupied Western Sahara and call on the international community to pressure Morocco to fulfill its legal obligations and respect the fundamental rights, including labor rights, of the Sahrawi people