Aid embezzlement worsens suffering of Sahraouis in Polisario-run camps

A new aid embezzlement scandal emerged in the Tindouf camps after the Polisairo-administered Red Crescent was found guilty of sending aid to stores run by the trade division of the militia to be sold instead of being distributed for free to the targeted vulnerable civilians.

This comes amid international concern at reports of a coronavirus outbreak and deaths within the camps where Algeria has relegated a part of its territory to a separatist militia trading in the suffering of thousands of civilians.

The embezzled aid included 20 tons of barely, 15 tons of sugar, dates and flour, two tons of pasta, 5 tons of onions, 4 tons of potatoes, 20 tons of soft drinks and 2 quintals of tea, according to sources within the camps cited in multiple media reports.

The theft of humanitarian aid has showed cracks within the separatists’ edifice after senior Polisario leaders Bashir Mustapha Sayid called for the leadership to step down because of its involvement in what he described as “piracy in Tindouf” amid coronavirus concerns.

Algeria has tried to downplay the scale of the chaos within the camps and the risk facing the population held against its will in the camps by imposing a media blackout.

Recently, a movement was created challenging the Polisairo’s obsolete stands and ideology and calling for openness to a political and mutually acceptable solution to the conflict, breaking away with the stands of the Algerian host and sponsor.

Many Sahraouis have fled the camp last week en masse to Mauritania over fears of the coronavirus outbreak, Mauritanian media reported.

A convoy of 1500 cars left the camps to northern Mauritanian localities of Tiris Zemmour and Adrar, Mauritanian media outlets reported.

The unbearable living conditions imposed on the population held against their will have also pushed young disenchanted Sahraouis to flee the camp at the risk of being shot.

Algeria’s responsibility

From humanitarian aid embezzlement by the Polisario officials to slavery and forced disappearances in the Tinfoud camps, Algeria has abdicated its responsibilities and forsaken a civilian population to the mercy of a separatist militia.

Algeria’s obstinacy to allow a head-count of the population of the Polisario-run camps prompted the EU to reduce aid sent to these camps in a bid to curb humanitarian aid diversion.

The decision was taken following a report by the EU anti-fraud office (OLAF) denouncing the embezzlement of humanitarian aid by the Polisario leadership and Algerian officials. Therefore, the European Commission decided to cut aid commensurately with the estimated number of 90,000 people instead of the inflated 165,000 people put forward by the Polisario and Algeria in an attempt to sell the idea of the existence of a “Sahraoui People” with a “republic” in exile.

Carrying out a head-count of the population held in Tindouf will enable international aid agencies to assess the needs of the population and will also pave the way for the camps dwellers to obtain the refugee status. This status will grant them the right to return to their homeland Morocco or at least the right to freely choose their country of asylum, options that Algeria and the Polisario dread the most as they continue to trade in the suffering of Sahraouis living in abject conditions.

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