The Saharawis do not exist for Spanish law. The inhabitants of that piece of desert which, until only 45 years ago, was the last Spanish colony, have fewer rights than the descendants of the Sephardi Jews, expelled five centuries ago by the Catholic Kings, who can obtain Spanish nationality without ever having set foot in Spain; or the Iberoamericans, Equatoguineans and Filipinos, who can obtain citizenship with only two years of legal residence. Spain does not recognise the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and therefore the Saharawis do not exist. They're Moroccan or Algerian. Or stateless persons.
Abdullah Arabi, POLISARIO Front representative in Spain
The Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court has just ruled that not even the 74,000 people who were living in Western Sahara when Spain began a still unfinished decolonization process in 1975 were Spanish, despite the fact that they had ID cards, a Spanish passport and a family book, were able to access positions as civil servants in the administration and fight in the ranks of the army, had their own representatives in Franco's courts and were able to vote in the referendum called by the dictatorship in 1966.
However, the Supreme Court has ruled that, although Franco declared Western Sahara the 53rd province of Spain, it was never Spanish territory and, therefore, those born there never acquired the status of Spaniards; which made them stateless at birth.
Spanish ID card of a Saharawi woman. Jalil Mohamed, Twitter
"What concerns us," he stresses, "is the political background of the ruling. We are afraid that, just as Spain has neglected to resolve the political conflict, it will also want to evade its responsibility for the situation of the Saharawis".
The Polisario is prepared to provide legal support to the Sahrawi woman who has been denied Spanish nationality by the Supreme Court, after it was recognized by the Balearic Islands Court, so that she can appeal to the Constitutional Court and even to the Strasbourg Court. It will be supported by the dissenting opinion of three judges of the Supreme Court, who maintain that the law from 1975 that legalized the withdrawal from the metropolis and the decree from 1976 that sanctioned it cannot be applied retroactively.
The latter gave the Saharawis one year to opt for Spanish nationality, but this measure, according to the individual vote, was invalid, not only because it was inapplicable under the military occupation of Morocco, but also because it meant depriving the Saharawis of their citizenship for a reason not contemplated in the Civil Code of that time.
The Supreme Court's ruling has come at a particularly difficult time in the Tindouf refugee camps. The Saharawi camps have managed to stay safe from the coronavirus, which was a major threat to their fragile health system. To date, not a single case of infection has been recorded, but the price to be paid has been an ironclad isolation.
The closure of the border has meant a drastic interruption in the arrival of international humanitarian aid, on which the camps depend for their survival, and this has led to a "health and food emergency", in the words of Arabi.
Among the projects that had to be suspended is "Holidays in Peace", which for 47 years has brought thousands of Saharawi children to spend the summer with Spanish families, strengthening the link between the two peoples.In 2019 there were more than 4,000, but nobody will come this summer. Arabi explains that, to make up for their absence, Spanish families will be able to contact the children they know from previous years and send them packages. But it won´t be the same.
Spanish family booklet issued for Sahrawis by the colonial administration