End of HCR visits exchanges between Moroccan families in Southwestern Algeria and those in Morocco
Algeria-Morocco, Politics, 12/31/2004
The operation of visits exchange between families sequestered in the Polisario-controled camps of Tindouf (southwestern Algeria) and those in Moroccan southern provinces (Sahara) ended on Wednesday after 1.476 persons had the opportunity to see their relatives.
Since it started last March 5, the operation conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees included 29 exchanges between Morocco and the Tindouf camps, controlled by the Polisario, An Algeria-backed movement claiming the separation of Moroccan southern provinces, or the Sahara, from the rest of Morocco. The territory was retrieved by Morocco from the Spanish occupiers in 1975 under the Madrid accords.
The operation consisted in 6 exchanges to and from each of the cities of Laayoune, Dakhla and Smara as well as 4 exchanges to and from Boujdour. A total of 754 persons from the Tindouf camps and 722 from Moroccan cities visited with their relatives. Some of them had not seen each other for over 25 years.
Under the right to family reunion, two families, made of 8 persons, chose to stay in the Moroccan southern provinces and have asked the HCR to repatriate the rest of their relatives who are still sequestered in the camps.
The Moroccan office serving as a liaison with the MINURSO (French acronym for the UN mission in the Sahara) asks the HCR to conduct without delay the repatriation and fulfil the families' wish, in consistence with its mandate.
The Moroccan side, reiterating its support to the continuation of the exchange of visits, calls HCR to take all arrangements in order to overcome in the future difficulties encountered in the 1st phase.
Only a qualitative and sufficient presence of the HCR in the Tindouf camps will allow the UN body conduct the operation in transparency, says the Moroccan side which also insists that it is only in this condition that the operation resumption slated in 2005 will reach its humanitarian objectives and alleviate the sufferings of the populations forcible held in Tindouf, pending their voluntary and final repatriation.
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