Spain asks Morocco to grant hunger-striker a passport

4th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain made the request in a formal letter to the Moroccan embassy in Spain on Tuesday but has yet to receive a reply.

Madrid – Spain has formally asked Morocco to grant a new passport to a Western Sahara activist on a hunger strike at a Spanish airport in a bid to help her return home, a senior foreign ministry official said Thursday.

The request was made in a formal letter sent to the Moroccan embassy in Spain on Tuesday, Agustin Santos said at the airport of the Canary Island of Lanzarote where Aminatou Haidar's hunger strike went into its 18th day.

The foreign ministry has so far not received a reply and it appears unlikely that Morocco will grant her a new passport "unless she reaffirms that she is a Moroccan citizen and asks for forgiveness from the Moroccan authorities," he added after meeting the mother-of-two at the airport.

"The Moroccan position is perfectly clear," he said, adding that under international law Morocco "has the obligation" to provide identity documents to residents of Western Sahara.

He said he hoped that mediation on the part of the United Nations and the Council of Europe would quickly find a solution to the impasse given the deterioration in the activist's health since she started her hunger strike.

Haidar, 42, has refused to eat since 16 November, three days after Moroccan authorities denied her entry into her native Western Sahara, allegedly confiscated her passport, and expelled her to the Canary Islands.

The activist, who campaigns for the independence of the Western Sahara from Morocco, previously told AFP that Moroccan authorities denied her entry because of her refusal to accept the territory is part of Morocco.

She has remained camped out at the airport to draw attention to her cause, which has been backed by several celebrities, including Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem and Portuguese Nobel-winning author Jose Saramago who visited her earlier this week.

Spain has offered to giver Haidar refugee status or Spanish citizenship so that she could be allowed to return home but she rejected both options.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said earlier Thursday Madrid would continue efforts to find a solution that would allow Haidar to return home.

The activist is angry with Spain, which she says collaborated with Morocco by accepting her after she was expelled from the Western Sahara.

The award-winning activist used a Spanish residency permit to re-enter the Canary Islands after Moroccan immigration officials denied her entry and sent her back to the archipelago.

She wants her old Moroccan passport returned and refuses to ask Moroccan authorities for a new one.

"I have been kidnapped, detained, tortured and separated from my children by Morocco but this never hurt me as much as what Spain is doing, a democratic country with the rule of law," she said in a statement distributed by her supporters before talks with Santos.

Morocco annexed phosphate-rich Western Sahara after Spain left in 1975 and has pledged to grant it widespread autonomy, but rules out independence as demanded by the Polisario Front movement.

While fighting in the desert territory halted in 1991, UN-sponsored talks on Western Sahara's future have made no headway.

AFP / Expatica

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