UNHCR : Algiers rejects Morocco’s calls for population census in the Tindouf camps

During the 71st session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Program, Algeria rejected Morocco’s calls for a population census in the Tindouf camps.

The 71st session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Program, which takes place from October 5 to 9 in Geneva, witnessed traditional bickering between Morocco and Algeria.


During his intervention on behalf of the African group, marked by his very diplomatic tone, the Algerian representative refrained from mentioning the population of the Tindouf camps, but made up for it during his speech on the Wednesday October 7. The diplomat, Mehdi Litim, rejected all requests, including Security Council resolutions, calling on the Algerian authorities to identify the Sahrawis in the camps.


«The lasting solution» to this question «involves the voluntary return of the Sahrawi refugees, within the framework of the full application of the United Nations Peace Plan for Western Sahara, which guarantees the Sahrawi people the right to freely determine their future position», he said. He added that «the census of Sahrawi refugees is an operation forming an integral part of this Plan, which distinguishes it from the registration recommended in other refugee situations».


Despite this refusal, the speaker urged «UNHCR to officially take into account the conclusions of the joint inter-agency study of March 2018, including the final report entitled» Sahrawi Refugees in Tindouf, Algeria : Total Population of the Camps «which indicates that there is 173,600 Sahrawi refugees». A figure, higher than the 90,000 that the European Union takes into account when calculating the volume of humanitarian aid intended for the inhabitants of the Tindouf camps.


Morocco points to camps' militarization 


For his part, Moroccan Ambassador Omar Zniber expressed his delegation's concern about «the situation in the Tindouf camps and the host country's persistence in opposing the international consensus on the need to dissociate humanitarian issues from political considerations».


The diplomat pointed to «the devolution by the host country of its powers to a non-state and separatist actor on its territory», denouncing «the militarization of the Tindouf camps, in violation of the conclusions of this Committee stipulating that the host states assume responsibility to ensure the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum»


Unlike the debates of the 44th edition of the UNHCR, held from June 30 to July 17, marked by lively exchanges between the two countries on the subjects of human rights and natural resources in Western Sahara, on the refugee problem, the duel was conducted with kid gloves. The two diplomats content themselves with passing their messages by using the indirect style.