Western Sahara refugees in NZ to urge Government to ban imported phosphate

Source: 1News

Two New Zealand companies involved with phosphate are being criticised as making money off suffering people in poorer nations.

Refugees from Western Sahara are in New Zealand encouraging the Government to stop importing phosphate from disputed land.

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco 45 years ago and has been the subject of a long-running territorial dispute.

But despite international pressure, some New Zealand companies continue to import phosphate.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients' Mark Wynne told 1 NEWS, "I think it's fine, there's a United Nations framework in place for purchasing product out of disputed territories and we comply 100 per cent with that."

Both Ballance and Ravensdown have said it's a complex issue and can only be resolved by the United Nations, adding until then, they are trading legally and operating within the law.

But human rights lawyer Craig Tuck disagreed.

"It's utterly disgraceful and to try and explain it away in the context of an international dispute that a company doesn't want to get involved in, when no other company in the world will get involved, that governments have already clarified their position on it," he said.

"But these companies continue to trade on the backs of some of the poorest people on the planet."

Tecber Ahmed Saleh, who was born in an Algerian refugee camp then displaced by conflict, said, "basically what New Zealand is involved in is the prolongation of the occupation of my country and the suffering of the people both in refugee camps and the occupied territories."

Like the United Nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade hopes for acceptable political solution to resolve the dispute over the status of Western Sahara.

It's encouraging New Zealand companies to look for alternative sources. Until then, it says, companies must comply with international law.. and import at their own risk."