Moroccan Ambassador Omar Hilale called on Algeria to reveal the true number of people living in the Tindouf refugee camps – where displaced Sahrawis have been living under the control of the Algiers-backed Polisario Front.
Hilale, who represents the kingdom at the United Nations, made the remarks in front of the international organization’s Fourth Committee on special political isuses and decolonization.
Hilale called on Algeria to conduct a refugee registration process backed by the UNHCR to acquire an accurate count of the camps’ population so that aid supplies can be distributed accurately.
The Moroccan diplomat challenged the Algerian government to refute the claim that there is only 30,000 people in the Tindouf camps, adding that the only way to know the exact number is by allowing the UNHCR to conduct a census.
Hilale stressed that time has come that world knew the accurate number of people in the Tindouf camps, adding that refusing such census means the Algerian “is hiding the true number, which does not exceed 30,000.”
Security Council resolutions adopted since 2011 have all called on Algeria to allow the UN to conduct such consensus.
Over the past four decades, the UNHCR, the World Food Program (WFP) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) have been unanimous in their recognition of the embezzlement on international aid sent to Tindouf’s residents. The fraud has reportedly been conducted at the hands of Algerian officials and Polisario leaders.
The ambassador said recent reports from the area confirm that Algeria collected a value-added or VAT tax on the aid distributed to the refugees in the camps.
Hilale said a major issue causing the suffering of people in camps lies in the lack of democratic governance in elections and beyond. Gave the example of the former Polisario leader Mohammed Abdelaziz, and pointed out that the Polisario changes leadership only following the death of a leader.
Morocco fought a 16-year war with the Polisario Front, which ended in 1991 after the intervention of the United Nations and led to the establishment of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINURSO.