The increasing number of Sahrawi families who refuse to go back to the Tindouf camps in Algeria when they visit the Moroccan southern provinces in the frame of the UNHCR sponsored family exchange visits program is becoming a source of concern for both the Polisario and the Algerian rulers.
The latest defection concerns 19 people who arrived in Dakhla (500 km south of Laayoune) directly from the Tindouf camps, part of the program of exchange of visits between Sahrawi families living in the Polisario-run camps in Algeria and families living in Western Sahara.
This new collective refusal to return to Tindouf is the second in two weeks. In mid -April, 16 other Sahrawis had decided to settle permanently in Morocco.
According to informed sources from the Polisario headquarters in Algeria, if the trend continues and if more and more Sahrawi families refuse to return to Tindouf, this would seriously jeopardize the UNHCR-sponsored exchange visit program, launched in 2004.
The separatist front officials fearing more defections might stop the program, say the same sources, explaining that the disenfranchised youths are actually waiting for any opportunity to leave the camps and the family visits exchange program provides such a prospect.
On the ground, the Polisario dissidents are no longer afraid to publicly express their support to the Moroccan autonomy plan for Western Sahara, as do members of Attaghyr Movement (Movement for change). Some Sahrawis are even bold enough to openly request the UNHCR to help them leave the Tindouf camps and return to Morocco.
This situation is most embarrassing for Algerian rulers and especially for the senior officers of the Algerian military intelligence services (DRS.) Actually, despite the new harsher security measures deployed in and around the camps, the Algerian DRS have failed to contain the anger of Sahrawi youths.