The closure will affect around 12,000 Sahrawis with Spanish nationality.
The Sahrawi Association for the Defense of Human Rights deplored the Spanish decision to close the office located in a former Spanish military building,reported Cadenaser.
The move comes after Spain’s consul in Rabat Celsa Nuno Garcia gave instructions to shut down the office.
“No authorization or identity documents will be processed in this establishment” in Laayoune, the consul decided on February 13.
The office had been open for four decades.
The move to close the office will affect 12,000 Sahrawis with Spanish nationality, including 7,000 minors.
Naturalization is common in the region as a result of the Spanish occupation of Western Sahara.
Spain colonized southern Morocco in 1884. Sahrawis were, however, granted Spanish citizenship after Spain defined the Western Sahara region as an Spanish autonomous province in 1958.
In 1975 alone, about 32,000 people in the region had Spanish nationality.
The UNHCR estimates that 90,000 Sahrawis are living in the Tindouf camps, Algeria.
Sahrawis will now have to travel to Rabat for travel and identity documents for themselves or their relatives.
Spanish representative at the now-closed administration center, Manuel Carretero, said he does not know why Spain took the decision to close the administrative service.
The visit of Spanish FM Arancha Gonzalez Laya to Morocco in January suggests that the move was the result of talks with Moroccan officials.
Moroccan state-owned media Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) made no mention of the decision to close the office in Laayoune. Press coverage of the visit focused, instead, on Morocco’s move to enact two bills that will allow the North African country to delimit the maritime borders off the waters between Morocco’s Western Sahara and Spain’s Canary Islands.
Spain’s move to close the center could be construed as a sign that Madrid is considering taking a new position on the Western Sahara conflict, one that more explicitly backs Morocco’s sovereignty over the region.
The decision comes at a time when Madrid-Rabat relations are in flux. While Spain still depends on Morocco for support in the fields of irregular migration and security, Morocco’s decision to restrict the Ceuta and Melilla borders has caused economic stagnation in the Spanish enclaves.
The presidents of Ceuta and Melilla have condemned the Moroccan move, as hundreds of Moroccans from northern Morocco used to travel to the Spanish enclaves to buy goods in order to sell them again in Morocco. The smuggling of goods had positive impacts on the Spanish enclaves, but the practice is detrimental to the Moroccan economy.