The Spanish Minister of Justice refused to grant Spanish citizenship to young Sahrawis from the Tindouf camps. The refusal has greatly embarrassed the Polisario given the political implications of Madrid’s position.
It is “impossible for Sahrawis from the Polisario Front to obtain Spanish citizenship,” ruled Justice Minister Rafael Catala. The reason for the refusal is that Spain does not recognize the Sahrawi republic self-proclaimed by the Algeria-backed separatist movement. Therefore, although the Sahrawis requesting Spanish citizenship has been settled in the European country for over 10 years, Madrid turned down their applications because they entered Spain with documents issued by the Polisario.
Spanish authorities consider these Sahrawis’ identity documents invalid since they were issued by a non-existent entity or, at least, an entity not recognized by Spain. Most of these Sahrawis from the Tindouf camps arrived in Spain to spend summer holidays with Spanish families, but they never went back and settled permanently in the Iberian country.
Polisario activists in Spain had formed lobby groups to back these Sahrawis’ applications for Spanish nationality but their pressure proved unsuccessful as Spanish authorities rejected the requests.
The Spanish Government’s decision is an additional setback for the Polisario, which is claiming the independence of Western Sahara, and for its political aims. Actually, for the Polisario, the problem does not lie with Madrid’s refusal to grant Spanish nationality to the Sahrawis, but rather with the political implications of this decision that shattered their wishes to bring Madrid to recognize the Sahrawi republic.