Secretary-General of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Rachid Baladhan said that Algeria is a “hospitable land,” opening its doors to “individuals and groups of women and men seeking freedom and dignity.”
The Algerian diplomat made the comments at the 70th session of the UNHCR’s Executive Committee in Geneva.
The ambassador said that the Algerian state has been home to “a large number of Sahrawi refugees” for over 44 years, referring to the Sahwari’s living in the Tindouf camps in southwest Algeria.
The statement provoked a strong response from Mustafa Salma who has recently criticized Algeria and the Polisario Front for alleged human rights abuses against Sahrawis living in the camps.
On Thursday, October 9, the Sahrawi activist condemned the Algerian diplomat for the statement that praised Algeria’s efforts for Sahrawi activists.
“Did the Sahrawis know the [meaning] of beggarly before going to Algeria?” Mustafa Salma asked rhetorically.
Responding to the Algerian diplomat’s claims, Mustafa Salma added that “Sahrawis do not have freedom in the Algerian land.”
“Their freedom of movement within the Algerian territory is prohibited without the permission of the Algerian military.”
If one of the Sahrawis is granted a pass, according to the activist, the movement is still restricted. Sahrawi’s movement within Algeria is limited to “a specific purpose, in a specific place, and for a specific period.”
The activist also condemned the restrictions of Sahrawis at the hand of Algeria, emphasizing that every refugee in the camps wants to “know how to obtain a passport from the Algerian administration.”
Mustafa Salma also outlined the contradictions in the Algerian diplomat’s statement regarding dignity. The activist said that Sahrawis are denied the right to work in Algerian institutions.
He decried this policy, saying that Algeria’s refusal to grant the camp residents the right to work forces them to wait and beg for international aid and charity.
“Begging is certainly incompatible with dignity.”
Mustafa Salma’s comments come in the wake of a report penned by Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the situation of Western Sahara and submitted to the UN Security Council on October 10.
In his report, Guterres warned against the alarming situation in the camps, citing malnutrition and anemia as major sources of concern.