Human rights activists based in Laayoune and Dakhla revealed in April that an estimated 250 people contracted the virus in the Tindouf camps.
Rabat – The precarious health situation in the Tindouf camps due to the spread of COVID-19 has prompted a member of the European Parliament (MEP), Anna Bonfrisco, to call on the European Committee to investigate Algeria’s responsibility in human rights violations in the camps.
The Tindouf camps in western Algeria are a group of refugee camps under the control of the Polisario Front. Residents of the camps have long denounced the repression of their basic freedoms.
In a written question to the Committee, Bonfrisco highlighted the urgent need for Algeria to implement a census in the Tindouf camps, where residents are deprived of many basic rights including employment, food and medicine, and freedom of movement.
The Italian politician warned that “the uncontrolled spread of the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a potential health threat, which also jeopardizes the lives of humanitarian workers.”
Recalling that European borders are experiencing a migration crisis characterized by mass flow of refugees, migrants, and displaced people, the official said that “many of these refugees are from sub-Saharan countries and transit through countries like Algeria and Libya.”
In an attempt to hold Algeria responsible, Bonfrisco urged the European Committee to “clarify the responsibility of the host countries towards refugees on their territories, having regard in particular to the provision of basic services, the implementation of a census and freedom of movement.”
Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk made similar statements late last month, condemning Polisario’s exploitation of the dire humanitarian situation in the camps and Algeria’s refusal to organize a census.
The MEPs’ remarks follow those of Belgian Euro-Deputy and former journalist Frederique Ries who in early April called on the European Commission to investigate Algeria’s “irresponsible attitude” towards the Tindouf camps population.
Ries pointed out Algeria’s inability to safeguard the Sahrawi population sequestered by the Polisario Front, allowing human rights abuse to prevail “on its soil.”
Human rights abuse in the camps
The Sahrawi population in the Tindouf camps found itself isolated and trapped in the desert after Algeria and Mauritania closed their borders and entered lockdown due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reports emerged in early April stating that while Polisario leadership self-isolate in their state-provided homes in Tindouf, Sahrawis are left behind to live in perilous conditions without basic sanitation, healthcare, or security.
While the Polisario Front and its self-imposed “government” continue to claim the pandemic has not reached the camps, human rights activists based in the southern Moroccan cities of Laayoune and Dakhla revealed that at least 250 people contracted the virus and have been held in isolation without basic medical care or supervision.
The Polisario Front, which claims to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, has long been involved in the embezzlement of funds and humanitarian aid, selling vital supplies in the black market in Rabouni, a city near the camps.