|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
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 Peoples 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 territorys
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.