Tindouf camp flood relief: Continued support dependent on donor response

Briefing Notes, 24 February 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 February 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is urgently appealing to donors for support to continue an emergency airlift of relief supplies from our stockpiles in Jordan to some 60,000 Sahrawi refugee flood victims in camps near Tindouf, western Algeria. After two flights last weekend by Portuguese and Italian military C-130 cargo planes carrying a total of 20 tonnes of supplies, and a further Italian flight scheduled for this weekend, we have no more air support in sight and do not have the funds to commercially airlift the remaining 150 tonnes of supplies to the refugees.

It is critical that we get these supplies quickly to the refugees, whose homes literally dissolved after three days of rare, torrential downpours nearly two weeks ago. More than 50 percent of infrastructure in three camps was also severely damaged, much of it on the verge of collapse.

The first two flights last weekend brought in 440 lightweight family tents and other supplies, but even when added to the 4,000 tents given by the Algerian authorities, this is inadequate to cope with the number of refugees made homeless.

We have over 150 tonnes of relief items 800 tents, 43,000 blankets, 10,000 mattresses, 3,000 plastic sheets and 8,000 jerry cans waiting in Jordan for transportation. Another 10-15 flights by C-130s would be needed to get the supplies to Algeria.

On the ground in Tindouf, UNHCR and its partners are working hard to ease the suffering of the refugees and get them adequately housed. Most of the refugees are temporarily housed in tents and surviving on aid rapidly provided by Algeria, Spain, UNHCR and various international and local agencies. The World Food Programme, WFP, has provided food from its emergency stocks as well as other relief items.

With much of the camp infrastructure destroyed, more emergency tents are needed for use as temporary classrooms, nurseries, kindergartens and community centres for youth, women and children.




UNHCR country pages

Confidence Building Measures 2009/2010 Western Sahara

Information brochure about UNHCR's Confidence Building Measures programme aimed at addressing the effects of prolonged separation between the Saharan refugees in the camps near Tindouf, Algeria and their families in Western Sahara.

Sighted off Spain's Canary Islands

Despite considerable dangers, migrants seeking a better future and refugees fleeing war and persecution continue to board flimsy boats and set off across the high seas. One of the main routes into Europe runs from West Africa to Spain's Canary Islands.

Before 2006, most irregular migrants taking this route used small vessels called pateras, which can carry up to 20 people. They left mostly from Morocco and the Western Sahara on the half-day journey. The pateras have to a large extent been replaced by boats which carry up to 150 people and take three weeks to reach the Canaries from ports in West Africa.

Although only a small proportion of the almost 32,000 people who arrived in the Canary Islands in 2006 applied for asylum, the number has gone up. More than 500 people applied for asylum in 2007, compared with 359 the year before. This came at a time when the overall number of arrivals by sea went down by 75 percent during 2007.

Sighted off Spain's Canary Islands

Western Sahara Family Visits

Emotions are running high in the Sahara desert as families split for nearly three decades by conflict over sovereignty of the Western Sahara Territory are being briefly reunited by a UNHCR family visit scheme.

Living in five windswept and isolated camps around Tindouf in south-western Algeria for the last 28 years, the refugees have been almost totally cut off from their relatives in the Territory. So when the UN refugee agency launched its five-day family visit scheme in March this year, there were tears of joy as well as apprehension at the prospect of reunion.

The visit scheme is proving extremely popular, with more than 800 people already having visited their relatives and another 18,000 signed up to go. In addition to the family visit scheme, the UN refugee agency has opened telephone centres in some of the camps, creating another channel through which long-lost family members can make contact.

Photos taken in June 2004.

Western Sahara Family Visits

Portugal: Sahrawi Cultural GatheringPlay video

Portugal: Sahrawi Cultural Gathering

People from Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria and from Western Sahara Territory meet for a cultural seminar in the Azores Islands as part of a confidence building measures programme.