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The Unique Situation of Tindouf Camps in Algeria

The situation of the people in the camps of Tindouf is, in many ways, atypical under international humanitarian law. The hijacking of entire population, men, women and children for political purposes, the sustainability, for more than a generation, of a situation which would have been, by nature, temporary, the military aspect of the management of this population, or even the absence of accurate figures on the number of people who are sequestrated in these camps, are all factors which give the situation of this population in Tindouf an exceptional and unique characteristic, at the international level.

The collective dimension of the situation of human rights in Tindouf: between lawless zone and territory of exception.

1.      The lack of a clear legal framework, governing the status of populations in Tindouf is exceptional and unique under international law. The geographical location of the camps on Algerian territory together with their management, de facto, by polisario is unacceptable, for two reasons:

• On the one hand, there can be no “giving out” of sovereignty, and subsequently of responsibility, by a State to a non-state actor, a military one moreover, on its territory.

• On the other hand, this situation is harmful to the populations in the camps: the legal ambiguity, voluntarily upheld, by Algeria and polisario, results in a general lack of accountability and, therefore, lack of protection for the concerned populations.

2.    Algeria, the host country, refuses to satisfy its obligations under international humanitarian law concerning the protection of refugees in Tindouf, and refuses, despite repeated calls from UNHCR (2001, 2003, 2005 and 2009) and the UN Secretary General, in his report in April 2010, to proceed to their registration and census.

The individual dimension of the situation of human rights in Tindouf: the systematic violation of all fundamental rights.

Weakened by the legal framework which they are involved in, the populations of Tindouf are subject, therefore, to daily and systematic violations of their fundamental rights, without having where and whom to resort to, in this matter.

•    Freedom of movement: ban on leaving the camps, movement control inside the camps, checkpoints, etc.

•     Freedom of association, expression, and gathering: one single system of thought, detention centers for alleged adulterers and homosexuals.

•      Right to education and schooling: Camp children are often sent to distant countries, without the consent of their parents, because Algeria refuses to integrate them within its post-graduate education system.

•     Right to food: continuous embezzlement of international humanitarian aid, as confirmed by the reports of UNHCR, WFP, OLAF and the European Union.

•     Right to work: they only have the right to work in informal sectors near the camps, and working outside the camps necessarily requires holding a work permit.