HCR Questioned on Algeria’s Responsibility in Blockade on Tindouf Camps

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was questioned Wednesday about the responsibility of Algeria in the blockade imposed on the Tindouf camps, in violation of international humanitarian law.

“Algeria must stop hindering humanitarian access to the Tindouf camps,” said Ambassador Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Office in Geneva, who was speaking at the 80th meeting of the Standing Committee of the UNHCR.

Speaking under Item 3 of the Agenda on the regional update on UNHCR operations in the Middle East and North Africa, Zniber noted that Algeria cannot shirk its obligations and the provisions of international law and must ensure “safe and unlimited humanitarian access to the Tindouf camps.”

He also drew attention to the prevailing insecurity in the Tindouf camps, denouncing attacks and incidents targeting not only the civilian population but also humanitarian actors and UN staff. “Last October, armed groups forced their way into the UNHCR premises in Rabouni and publicly desecrated its flag in a provocative action,” he recalled.

The ambassador called on the UNHCR, given its role in coordinating UN humanitarian efforts in the Tindouf camps, to conduct an investigation to shed light on recent security incidents reported in the camps, mainly those targeting the UNHCR and UN humanitarian staff, and on the measures needed to close the security gaps in the camps.

Morocco continues to express its deep concern about the devolution of power and territory by Algeria to a separatist and armed group, which is an exceptional and unprecedented situation in international law, he said.

The Ambassador also denounced the militarization of the Tindouf camps in violation of international obligations stating that host countries assume the responsibility of ensuring the humanitarian aspect of asylum.

He also spoke out against the forced recruitment of child soldiers into armed militias in the Tindouf camps in defiance of international child protection legislation, with the complicity of Algeria as well as the continued embezzlement of humanitarian aid by leaders of the camps to increase their personal wealth and finance the purchase of weapons including tanks and surface-to-air missiles.

The ambassador said that the embezzlement of humanitarian aid is encouraged, including the deliberate confusion about the population held captive in the Tindouf camps.

He recalled, in this regard, the repeated appeals to the HCR to conduct a headcount of this population, in compliance with its mandate and relevant Security Council resolutions, taking into account that the census improves the HCR operations transparency by reducing the risk of fraud and embezzlement.

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