Successful water action flotilla at Lyttelton Port
Fifteen kayaks, a yacht, and a ferry filled with over a hundred local school children joined the peace flotilla this morning at Lyttelton Port, Christchurch. They were encouraged from the land by approximately 80 human rights activists, who sang Saharawi songs of freedom. The action was to "unwelcome" the bulk carrying cargo ship the "Federal Crimson", as it arrived in Lyttelton carrying 50,000 tonnes of 'blood phosphate' from the occupied territory of Western Sahara. Christchurch group, ‘Ravensdown- Take ‘Em Down’ organised the water flotilla, inspired by the Peace Squadrons - which were instrumental in the NZ Nuclear Free campaign. Christchurch resident Catherline Low stated "I'm horrified that New Zealand companies are supporting human rights abuses by buying this phosphate. It has got to stop". Local organiser Josie Butler reports "Ravensdown are funding war crimes. We are here today to demand Ravensdown's CEO Greg Campbell to cease this internationally illegal import immediately".
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union boarded the ship on arrival, issuing a letter of protest to the Captain of the ship. This comes following the Council of Trade Unions' resolution which was passed last month, condemning Morocco's illegal occupation of Western Sahara and calling upon the New Zealand government to halt importation of phosphate from the area. Dunedin based ‘Environmental Justice Ōtepoti’ are planning a barbecue to celebrate how far the campaign has come this year.
Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and have been exploiting the countries natural resources ever since. 173,000 Saharawi live in a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria. The government of Western Sahara, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, is recognised by 80 states, but not by New Zealand.
MINURSO; The United Nations mission for a
peaceful resolution for the people of Western Sahara has so
far failed to achieve the referendum that the Saharawi
people are waiting for. New Zealand fertilizer companies
Ravensdown and Ballance are being criticized for purchasing
from Moroccan controlled phosphate exporter, OCP.
“Every shipment purchased gives more reason for the occupying power to remain and delays a peaceful outcome for the Saharawi people.” said Rose Murphy of Environmental Justice Ōtepoti.
Mahmoud Lemadel is a journalist and activist living in El Aiuin within the occupied area. Mahmoud has thrown his support behind the planned protests. “ My dream of living in peace as a young man living in occupied territory is being stolen by the international companies who are funding the illegal plunder of my country. Among these dreams thieves are companies from New Zealand - Ravensdown and Ballance. These companies are supporting the presence of occupation in my country" said Lemadel.
“Ravensdown are ignoring the requests of the Saharawi people and their government to stop purchasing from OCP. Ravensdown justify their ongoing involvement by claiming the purchasing of blood phosphate benefits local people. This ignores the reality in the refugee camps and the violence and oppression experienced by Saharawi’s living in the occupied area,” said Rose Murphy. “Our groups have been in close contact with and are working alongside the Saharawi people to ensure their voices are heard.”
Earlier this year, 24 year old English teacher
Sabah Osman was killed by Moroccan police while she
celebrated Algeria’s victory in the football tournament,
Africa Cup of Nations.
“We intend to remember Sabah Osman at our event this week,” said Rose Murphy.
“It is shameful that Ravensdown continues to silence and erase the suffering of the people of Western Sahara. They (Ravensdown) are aware that this operation is a violation of human rights. The people of Western Sahara have a right to sovereignty. Ravensdown are complicit in allowing the military occupation to continue,” Murphy said.