U.S. supports 'reliable census' of Tindouf population, urges Algiers and Polisario to cooperate with HCR
Morocco-USA, Politics, 3/10/2005
Morocco's call for a "reliable and modern census" of the population in the Polisario-controlled camps of Tindouf (southwest Algeria) was echoed by the U.S. delegation in Geneva which urged the separatist movement and its backer Algeria, to collaborate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR).
Joe Cassidy, head of the migration and refugees affairs at the United States mission in Geneva said he shared Morocco's concerns over the need to conduct a reliable census to determine the real size of the population in those camps. Morocco considers that the size of this population has always been overestimated by UN bodies, hence the need to conduct a reliable and modern census.
Cassidy was reacting to the speech Wednesday by Morocco's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Omar Hilale who was addressing the 32nd session of the HCR permanent committee.
The Moroccan diplomat criticized the report by the UNHCR's department for Central Asia, South West Asia, North Africa and Middle East (CASWANAME) for not mentioning measures taken or projected by the HCR to register the camps populations and live up to its commitments made to the Moroccan mission in an official letter.
The American diplomat urged Algerian authorities and the Polisario separatists to collaborate with the HCR with a view to "reinforcing the confidence of donor" countries. He also expressed satisfaction at the fruitful cooperation between the parties as part of the confidence-building measures and voiced his country's financial and political support to this operation.
In his intervention, Hilale, who praised progress made in refugees registration in Africa, Pacific Asia and other regions, expressed however, disappointment for the lack of similar moves for the Tindouf camps.
Most advanced registration techniques were used in 2004 in Africa, including the "Profile project" launched in September 2002 and the unified standard registration approach, "ProGres" software, biometry, state-of-the-art photography and secured ID which are already in use in 15 countries and projected to be introduced in 11 others in 2005. The diplomat called for applying the same techniques for the Tindouf populations in order to allow for their individual registration and an accurate appraisal of their needs.
The Polisario separatist who lay claims on the Moroccan Southern provinces, known as the Sahara, have always overestimated the number of people living in those camps in order to receive the maximum of humanitarian aid.
The Sahara, a former Spanish colony was retrieved by Morocco in 1975 under the Madrid Accords.
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