Humanitarian Aid

The World Food Programme, the United Nations' High Commission for Refugees, the European Union and many other international organisations, charities and non-governmental organisations provide aid to the Saharawi Refugees in Tindouf. 

Much of the food and medicines, generously donated to benefit the Refugees, does not reach them, but is sold in the markets of North African countries such as Mali, Mauritania and Algeria to raise money to purchase weapons and ammunition.  Many journalists and non-governmental organisations have attested to the systematic embezzlement and misappropriation of this basic humanitarian aid.  (See below).

Within the Tindouf camps, the Polisario leadership uses the food and medicines as means of enforcing and maintaining their control, for example in ensuring compliance with their edicts and rewarding particular forms of behaviour.  This denial of basic food and medicines is an abuse of the Refugees' basic human rights.  Extorsion and corruption is endemic, and is attested to by the Refugess who escape from the Tindouf camps and make their way to Morocco.   This summer the systematic exploitation of humanitarian aid by the Polisario leadership reached new depths, with the Polisario selling the Refugees the water given to them by the international community.  Given the very high summer temperatures in Tindouf, life without drinking water is virtually impossible.  So as to prevent an up-rising in the camps against the Polisario, the Algerian Army intervened and distributed the water.
While the Polisario constantly pleads for more humanitarian aid, it is worth noting that it spends more money on military projects, weapons etc than the United Nations' High Commission for Refugees spends annually on refugees around the world.

Journalists, international donors, non-governmental organisations, charities and individuals who have described the systematic misappropriation of humanitarian aid destined for the Saharawi Refugees include:

Mr Ghoulam Najem Mouichame, former representative of the Polisario Front in Bremen, Germany,

"Throughout my mission in Germany, I was led to ascertain that a sizeable amount of all sorts of humanitarian aid sent by the German donors to the populations of the Tindouf camps was systematically embezzled by members of the Polisario, who proceeded to sell it in the south of Algeria and the north of Mauritania." Reported by the European Strategic Intelligence & Securty Center" in November 2005.

France Liberte's 2003 report (pages 31-32) describe food aid being sold in the markets of Zouerate (Mauritania), in the south of Algeria and the north of Mali.  Some of the aid is transferred to un-marked bags which do not bear any international insignia before being sold or exchanged for other goods.

Mr Hans R. Wittewer of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent has drawn the attention of the World Food Programme and the European Union to the fact that funds destined to pay for the transport of humanitarian aid to the Tindouf populations has instead been used to purchase airline tickets for travel abroad by the Polisario leadership. 

The newspaper "El Watan" describes many instances of humanitarian aid being sold illegally, including,
"noodles and spaghetti, sent by the Italian government and people, were disposed of through selling in the Algiers' markets - and even on the pavements - for 35 Dinars a pound.  On the wrappings of the products is clearly indicated in Italiand and Arabic that these items are donated by the Italian government and people."

The European Union's office for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) told the Spanish newspaper "ABC" in December 2003 "The European Union is going to review its humanitarian aid policy towards the Polisario, having detected massive fraud", adding that "ECHO has demanded explanations from the Polisario having discovered systematic misappropriation of humanitarian aid intended for the Refugees in Tindouf". 

In a further attempt to stop continual abuses of humanitarian resources and to ensure that the aid reaches those for whom it is intended, the European Union announced in August 2007 the setting up of an office in Tindouf to oversee its dissemination.  This year, 2007, the EU has provided aid to the value of Euro 10 million and has contributed Euro 133 million since 1993.  

As the Polisario Front and Algeria refuse to allow independent international organisations to supervise the distribution of humanitarian aid, as happens in other parts of the world, the Saharawi Refugees detained in the Tindouf camps are unlikely to receive the aid so generously donated by international governments and organisations. 

Malnutrition and forced labour

Due to the systematic misappropriation of food and the use of food as a reward for compliance with the Polisario's strictures, there is a 35% malnutrition rate.  Women, children and the elderly are compelled to take carry out forced manual labour in all weathers, extreme heat in summer and extreme cold in winter.  Insufficient food, clothing and medical care means that their health and welfare are further jeopardised.  Algeria, as the host country and a signatory to the United Nations's should protect these Refugees and afford them all the protections listed in the numerous United Nations' conventions and charters to which it is a signatory.

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