The Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf are a space where lawlessness prevails and where a “real humanitarian disaster” is unfolding. The argument was upheld by several international human rights non-governmental organizations before the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council held in Geneva.
Abuses and violations perpetrated by the Polisario torturers are innumerable in this area on Algerian soil that is completely isolated from the rest of the world, underlined the NGOs which drew the UNHRC’s attention to the dire living conditions of refugees in these camps.
The NGOs also denounced before the UNHRC the lack of freedom of expression and movement in the camps and Algerian authorities’ rejection of all requests to conduct a census of the refugees in Tindouf.
Several UN specialized agencies, including the High Commissioner for Refugees, have actually repeatedly asked Algiers to authorize a census of this population in order to assess adequately its humanitarian needs. But the census could never be held because of Algerian leaders’ trifling political calculations and ambitions.
Representatives of the International Committee for the Respect of the African Charter on Human Rights ( CIRAC ) and the Agency for International Development (AIDE) have also warned the UNHRC about “the dangers that may result if such a zone of lawlessness is not dismantled.”
“The real humanitarian disaster prevailing in these remote camps has lasted for much too long”, warned the Saharawi activist Semlali Aabadila, a CIRAC member. The current situation in the camps and the dissatisfaction of the disenfranchised population corroborate the idea that terrorism is often a corollary of separatism,” he said.
With regard to the settlement process, Aabadila noted that “the persisting stalemate and stubbornness discourage all good wills of the free world.’ Yet, Morocco has demonstrated its goodwill when it put on the negotiation table the autonomy plan for the Sahara, a face saving solution for all parties to the conflict, he said.
Yasmine Hasnaoui from AIDE on her part said a humanitarian tragedy is taking place in Tindouf, located at only a few hundred kilometers from Morocco’s southern provinces.Thousands of innocent civilians have been held there as hostages for decades, she deplored.
The two NGOs insisted that awaiting a final settlement of the conflict, these refugees need to enjoy their freedom of speech and of movement as well as the freedom to decide their own fate.