Dramatic situation in the Tindouf camps

Dramatic situation in the Tindouf camps

Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Ambassador Omar Zniber

Speaking at the meeting on the "Update on the operations by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Middle East and North Africa" held in Geneva on March 12. 2020 within the Framework of the 77th meeting of the Standing Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme (UNHCR), the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Ambassador Omar Zniber made several important remarks regarding the item discussed.

The Ambassador underlined that The Kingdom of Morocco continued to make major efforts, in terms of dismantling migrant smuggling networks and aborting attempts of irregular migration, adding to that actions with the focus on prevention and assistance for victims and vulnerable people, especially operations of search-and-rescue at sea which provided assistance to 19,554 irregular migrants in distress at sea.

Furthermore, Morocco underlined that in 2019, some 73,973 attempts of irregular migration were aborted and 208 trafficking networks dismantled, as part of the fight against irregular migration led by the Kingdom.

These significant results demonstrate Morocco’s major contribution in terms of regional security as it assumes full responsibility of solidarity-based migration management and works with its partners to concretely anchor the principle of shared responsibility.

The Ambassador took good note of UNHCR’s actions aiming the development and expansion of complementary pathways for admission to third countries, in line with the Global Compact on Refugees. Morocco encourage new resettlement programmes and the expansion of existing ones to enhance burden- and responsibility-sharing with host countries.

In this framework, the Ambassador noticed that a reference was made to UNHCR’s work to expand and develop partnerships in the areas of registration, identification and referrals. :

Morocco commends UNHCR’s continued work to promote the inclusion of refugees in entrepreneurship opportunities. In this context, the Ambassador underlined that some actors of civil society in Morocco have recently joined the State-led efforts to support refugees’ self-reliance. Among those actors there is the Moroccan Association for Support and Promotion of Small Business, which conducts a program of refugees’ selfsufficiency aiming to encourage their economic empowerment and reduce their dependence on humanitarian assistance.

This program also targets to improve the employability of refugees and support them in various stages of creating micro-enterprises and cooperatives, through providing loans and grants as well as organizing seminars of professional training.

On the situation in North Africa, Morocco welcomed UNHCR’s effort to enhance integration and self-sustainability of refugees through multisectoral programmes in the Kingdom. The Ambassador noted with appreciation the work undertaken by the Office with the Government of Morocco towards the adoption of the national refugee law, given the growing number of people seeking international protection in the country.

On the other hand, Morocco remains particularly concerned about the situation in the camps of Tindouf.

The Kingdom of Morocco expresses its grave concern over the devolution by the host country of its powers, to a non-state and separatist actor, on its territory, thus maintaining an exceptional and unprecedented situation in the international law, and denounces, once again, the militarization of the Tindouf camps, in violation of the conclusions of this Committee stipulating that the host countries assume the responsibility of ensuring the civil and humanitarian character of asylum.

Regarding the number of the population retained in the camps of Tindouf, despite the official denials expressed - especially UNHCR’s communiqué of 28 September 2018-, the representative of the host country persisted in advancing random, fictitious and inflated figures, which we consider as politically motivated and in full contraction with the humanitarian character of our discussion.

In this context, it is important to emphasize that the only figures to be considered will result from the formal registration of this population according to the standards and criteria established by UNHCR, and its longstanding experience and practice in this field.

Therefore, Morocco renew calls for UNHCR to proceed with the registration of this population, in accordance with its mandate and in line with relevant Security Council resolutions, taking into account that registration improves the integrity of UNHCR’s operations by reducing the risk of fraud and misappropriation.

While the international humanitarian efforts are gradually shifting from an emergency response to an integrated longer-term development approach, it is worrying to realize that electrical grid has just embarked, after more than 40 years, somewhere on what it meant to be displacement camps. Similarly, as the world develops fourth- and fifth-generation technologies for digital cellular network, it is disturbing to hear the story of a confined population, who finally would or would not experience the basic electric current.