“Mass exodus” from Western Sahara cities

afrol News, 21 October – Concerns are mounting for thousands of civilians taking part in protests following a mass exodus from major cities in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara earlier this month. The protesters are denied food and medical supplies.

At least 10,000 Sahrawis since 9 October moved out of the occupied territory’s cities and are camping in the area of Gdeim Izik, 12 kilometres outside the capital El Aauin. The exodus was organised in protest against the Morocco occupation of Western Sahara, and the “ongoing discrimination, poverty and human rights abuses against Sahrawi citizens,” according to the protesters.

Sources in the exiled government of Western Sahara, based in Algerian refugee camps, claim that the number of protesters camping outside the major cities and towns in the territory reach “at least 14,000.” In addition to those camping outside El Aaiun, protest camps were also erected outside Smara, Dakhla and Bujador.

The number of protesters is “continuously growing,” Sahrawi government sources confirmed today. The campers document their protest action and their numbers on various videos uploaded on YouTube.

The latest reports from the protesters indicate that tensions with the Moroccan occupants are rising. Moroccan security forces have exercised violence against the protestors there are reports they are preventing supplies of food, water and medicine reaching the camps, sparking concern that this could become a major humanitarian issue.

The Saharawi Red Crescent yesterday launched an appeal “urging” donor countries and organisations around the world, to “provide as quickly as possible humanitarian assistance to populations” located in the protest camps outside El Aaiun.

Mohamed Abdelaziz, the President of the exiled Sahrawi government, has called on UN refugee agency to provide supplies to the protesters and asked the UN High Commissioner for human rights to intervene, warning the protesters were “without water, food and medicines, which could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Meanwhile, the exiled government is maintaining daily contact with the protesters, providing security updates. Government sources told afrol News that “despite the difficulties, the Sahrawis are well organised.”

“They organise in groups taking shifts to assure and monitor security for everyone 24 hours a day,” the Sahrawi government was told. “Some 40 metres away, they are confronted by Moroccan police and are therefore prepared for anything. There have even arrived cranes in case of a police order to forcedly dismantle the weak constructions that shelter the Sahrawis.”

President Abdelaziz today received the UN Envoy Christopher Ross in the Algerian refugee camps. Mr Ross is on a regional roundtrip to meet stakeholders in the Western Sahara conflict as the UN is trying to promote yet another round of negotiations to the age-old conflict.

Mr Ross was met by a concerned Sahrawi President, expressing concern over “the Moroccan escalation, violation of human rights and predicament of Sahrawis who moved outside of the towns in the occupied territories.”

The UN Envoy further met the Sahrawi Minister of the Occupied Territories, Khalil Sid-Amhamed. Also their meeting focused mainly on the situation of the protesting Sahrawis and “what should be done to protect them and Sahrawi activists of human rights and detainees in Moroccan prisons.”

Mr Ross, for his sake, called the current impasse over Western Sahara “untenable”. More than 150,000 Sahrawis have been living in refugee camps in Algeria since the Moroccan invasion of the former Spanish colony in 1975.


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