Spain – Morocco and the Western Sahara conflict, a long history of colonialism and migration

THE MATCH FOR EIGHTH OF THE WORLD CUP that the teams from Spain and Morocco will play tomorrow has as an extra-soccer seasoning the tense diplomatic relationship maintained by both nations, with a legendary immigration crisis and the Hispanic role in the dispute between the African country and its neighbor Algeria over the Western Sahara region.

The extra-soccer history between both nations dates back to the mid-19th centurywith successive wars of independence against the colonialism shared by Spain and France, and reaches a slightly less tense present.

The last episode of the diplomatic and migratory crisis between Morocco and Spain occurred in 2021as a result of the stay in a hospital in Logroño of Brahim Gali, general secretary of the Polisario Front and president of the Sahauri Arab Democratic Republic, which is not recognized by the nations of North Africa.

Western Saharaabout 266,000 square kilometers located in North Africa, at the western end of the Sahara desert and on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, It is a territory considered non-autonomous by the UN and that is not recognized by some 80 countries, for which the dispute does not end.

Currently a large part of that territory is under the control of Morocco. Spain was its administering (or colonial) power until November 1975, immediately after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, the date on which he ceded the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, in a strange agreement.

Subsequently Mauritania withdrew, Morocco expanding the area under its control, for which its Government considers that all of Western Sahara is under its sovereignty.

But, in reality, the eastern strip of that territory is in the hands of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguía el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front), a Saharawi independence movement that, since its creation in 1973, has been fighting for independence and, in any case, for the process of self-determination of Western Sahara.

The agreement signed almost 50 years ago by the Government of Spain for the cession of Western Sahara has not been accepted by the international community, as it is not legal from that perspective. The administration of Western Sahara cannot be passed from one country to another. It is not a private farm.

In any case, and despite not being legal from an international perspective, the tripartite agreement on Western Sahara, on February 26, 1976 The Government of Spain informed the UN that its presence there was ending and that it considered itself without any responsibility for what happened there.

Parallel to this situation, the Spanish enclaves in Ceuta and Melilla, both within the perimeter of Morocco, are some of the tragic postcards of African immigration to Europe, although not the only ones.

Thousands of newspaper articles, books and films, documentaries and fiction, record the harsh reality that surrounds these border posts, in which Hundreds of thousands of desperate people seek to reach Europe, a kind of promised land, which discriminates against and marginalizes thembut that keeps them away from famine, pestilence and misery.

Since the 1970s, the Government of Morocco has claimed sovereignty over both Spanish cities, but the Government of Spain never established negotiations of any kindsince it considers Ceuta, Melilla and the plazas part of the Spanish national territory.

Tomorrow only one football game will be played, one more episode of a show so profitable that it overcomes political, religious and moral barriers, among others, but behind it there is a long history.


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Spain – Morocco and the Western Sahara conflict, a long history of colonialism and migration

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