Over 850 Sahrawi NGOs Condemn Situation in Tindouf Camps, Slam Participation of Polisario Leader in EU-AU Summit

More than 850 Sahrawi NGOs active in the area of human rights and sustainable development have strongly rejected the participation of the military leader of +polisario+ in the Summit of the European Union and the African Union, scheduled for February 17-18 in Brussels, while drawing the attention of European leaders to the situation of the Sahrawi populations held against their will in the Tindouf camps. In a letter sent to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, and to the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, these NGOs expressed their astonishment and their rejection of the participation in the EU-AU summit “of a man and an organization responsible for serious violations of human rights and misappropriation of European aid.” “For us, it is incomprehensible and highly condemnable”, protest the 852 NGOs that signed the petition letter sent to the three senior European officials.

The Sahrawi NGOs seized the opportunity of this petition letter to draw attention to the situation of the Sahrawis held in the Tindouf camps, in the south of Algeria. “We are worried because our loved ones sequestered in the Tindouf camps are exposed to an enormous risk, locked up in militarized camps devoid of sanitary structures and spaces allowing them to enjoy their fundamental rights”, they underlined. The 852 NGOs thus expressed their deep concern over the fate of Sahrawi women sequestered in the Tindouf camps, noting that these populations live in a situation of “constant violation” of international law by the host country, Algeria, which ignored several UN Security Council resolutions, as well as the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Algeria refuses to carry out the census and registration of refugees so that they benefit from the fundamental rights in connection with their status in accordance with Articles 17 to 24 of the UN Convention, in particular the right to choose their own domicile, to travel and to work, underlined the signatories of the petition letter.

Worse still, the Sahrawis sequestered in the Tindouf camps are regularly abused by the leaders of the +polisario+, they said, adding that if they dare to claim their freedom of expression, they are subjected to torture and oppression, as evidenced by the latest report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGDA). “Such reports are unfortunately only the latest official acknowledgment that the Algerian authorities and the Polisario militias engage, in the Tindouf camps, in arbitrary detention and the use of force”, said the 852 Sahrawi NGOs, which called on EU leaders to ensure that the host country, Algeria, assumes its responsibility towards the refugees settled on its territory. The signatories of the letter also slammed the continued diversion of EU aid by Algeria and the +polisario+ militia. “Despite several condemnations, EU aid unfortunately continues to be diverted to finance this armed group (polisario) instead of improving the lives of the population in the camps,” they pointed out.

The 852 Sahrawi NGOs seized the opportunity of this petition to recall that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) had denounced in 2015 the “fraudulent and systematic” embezzlement of humanitarian aid and European funds. These diversions, they added, are facilitated by the lack of data that a census of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would have provided. A census would also have provided data on the abuses perpetrated by the Algerian authorities against the refugees in the Tindouf camps, they deplored.