Off the Radar: Human Rights in the Tindouf Refugee Camps
For four decades tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees have lived in remote refugee camps in the Sahara desert near the Algerian town of Tindouf. With the assent of Algerian authorities, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) administers the camps.
It also administers the narrow band of Western Sahara that is not presently under Moroccan occupation. While a UN-monitored ceasefire between the two sides has held since 1991, the prospect of a lasting settlement and the return of refugees to their homeland remains elusive. The refugees, who number about 90,000 according to estimates by UN agencies, continue to rely primarily on international aid for basic necessities. While the Polisario says that it welcomes human rights monitoring and has posed no obstacles to visits by Human Rights Watch, monitoring by impartial organizations and agencies in the camps has been sporadic at best, in part owing to the camps’ remoteness.
This report, the result of a two-week research mission to the camps in late 2013, is Human Rights Watch’s first update on the human rights situation in the camps since 2008. While researchers found no evidence of any patterns of serious abuse, they identified several areas of concern.