Sahrawi refugee camps

After the Green March, Morocco illegally annexed the Western Sahara and put pressure on Spain to leave the territory. In November 1975, Spain distributed its former province between Morocco and Mauritania.
The new colonisers launched a military invasion of the main cities causing a mass exodus of over 40,000 people into the desert. Under the protection of the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army and the organisation of the Polisario (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro), the refugees made their way to the inhospitable region of Tindouf where – welcomed by Algeria – they settled in improvised camps of jaimas.
After a long guerrilla war, Mauritania withdrew from the conflict in 1978 and Morocco built a retaining wall, over 2,000 kilometres long, separating the territory diagonally from north to south. In spite of the wall, the war continued until 1991, when a ceasefire was agreed with a view to holding a referendum that would decide the territory’s sovereignty. The referendum has been postponed several times because Morocco has continued to reject the different international resolutions.
After more than 32 years waiting for a solution, the Sahrawis have converted the improvised camps into a perfectly structured and coordinated organisation.
The camps are divided into four districts, or wilayas, bearing the names of the main cities in the occupied territory: El Ayoun, Aousserd, Smara and Dajla. Each wilaya is divided into six or seven villages, or dairas, which are subdivided into four districts. All the wilayas have a regional hospital, several schools, nursery schools, clinics, yards, etc.
There are also the settlements of the 27th February School for Women or the 9th June and 12th October boarding schools and an administrative zone in Rabouni (the main well) with its respective ministries.
The Algerian region of Tindouf is one of the most arid and extreme zones in the Sahara, meaning that self-sufficiency is practically impossible. As refugees, the Sahrawis need up to 100% of humanitarian aid and international cooperation in order to survive.


< >