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MP Draws Attention to Paradox over Status of Tindouf Residents

Algeria is considering the Sahrawis and Sahelians residing in Tindouf as “refugees,” yet it does not allow them to enjoy their rights as stated in the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, said chairperson of the Moroccan-EU joint parliamentary committee Lahcen Haddad on Saturday, recalling that Algeria is signatory of both treaties.

Haddad highlighted that during the 78th UN Special Committee on Decolonization, held in New York, Spain demanded, on behalf of the European Union, that Algeria conduct a census of the Sahrawis and the Sahelians residing in Tindouf.

He explained that the Geneva Convention calls for identifying, conducting a headcount, registering, and issuing IDs for refugees in coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The convention also consists of allowing those individuals to move freely inside the Algerian territory and settle wherever they choose, as does the Syrian refugees living in Algeria. They should have the opportunity to engage in economic activities to earn a living and be free to move elsewhere if they choose.

Haddad emphasized that Algeria keeps the Sahrawis and Sahelians living Tindouf as detainees in tents and camps, under heavy surveillance. “Algeria failed to conduct the necessary census or provide them with refugee cards, as mandated by the UNSC and UNHCR.”

Concerning food aid, he stated that the UN World Food Program supplies 135,000 food rations on a daily basis, while the estimated population, according to various sources, ranges between 60,000 to 90,000.

Haddad pointed out that Algeria has delegated the management of its affairs to the Polisario, which contravenes international law because the group lacks a functional judicial system that would protect the rights of these individuals. This issue was addressed during the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in Algeria in 2018 in Geneva, and, so far, Algeria has not responded to the observations made by the Human Rights Council on this matter.