Western Sahara: European Union Calls for Census in Tindouf Camps

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The European Union (EU) on Friday renewed its call for a census in Polisario-administered camps in Tindouf, southern Algeria, Morocco’s state media MAP reported.

Christoph Heusgen, Germana’ys permanent representative at the UN, made the statement on behalf of EU member  countries.

Speaking before the 4th Committee of the UN General Assembly, the German diplomat said that the EU remains “concerned” about the repercussions of the Sahara conflict on security and stability in the region. 

Heusgen also noted the worsening conditions in the camps, underlining that the international community needs to go beyond providing humanitarian assistance for distressed Sahrawis in the camps. 

Invoking the latest UN report and Security Council resolution on the Western Sahara territorial dispute, the EU representative argued that a census by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would confer more effectiveness to any UN efforts or and monioring initiatives in the camps. 

The statement comes as the Polisario Front, the militant front calling for independence in Western Sahara, faces a persistent torrent of accusations and reports on mismanagement, embezzlement, and “extrajudicial executions” in the Tindouf camps. 

Meanwhile, the recent months have also seen Morocco’s position take the upper hand in the UN-moderated political process to end the decades-long dispute. 

Late last month, both the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General commenced Morocco’s commitment to the political process while urging Polisario to show similar commitment to the pragmatism and compromise spirit of the UN agenda for a lasting and politically negotiated resolution. 

Read also: UN Report Stresses Hunger Pandemic, Malnutrition in Tindouf Camps

Referring to these recent developments, Heusgen said that Brussels is determined to accompany “the commitment of the UN Secretary General to relaunch negotiations.”

According to the German diplomat, the goal is to sustain the “new momentum and a new spirit leading to the resumption of the political process, with the objective of achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.”

As the international community grapples with seemingly escalating tensions in the buffer zone, Heusgen noted, the EU wishes to “encourage the parties to show political will and work in an atmosphere that is conducive… to a new phase of negotiations in good faith and without preconditions and taking note of the efforts made and developments since 2006.”

The German diplomat’s reference to post-2006 developments in the territorial conflict is an apparent nod to Morocco’s widely applauded Autonomy Plan. 

Morocco submitted its resolution plan to the UN in 2007, proposing local autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. The idea is for the region’s inhabitants to have full control over the management of their social, economic, and political development plans while Morocco handles defense and diplomacy.

In recent years, Morocco’s plan has received plaudits from many observers and diplomats, including from permanent members — most notably France and the US — of the UN Security Council. 

Most observers have described the Moroccan plan as a “credible” and viable path to a lasting resolution of the dispute. 

Belgian minister of state and former president of the Belgian House of Representatives Andre Flahaut said in a recent interview that Morocco’s “balanced” and “common-sense” autonomy plan is “the only possible way” out of the enduring Sahara crisis. 

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