UNHCR disappointed at aborted family-visit flight for Western Saharan refugees

GENEVA - On Friday, September 17th, UNHCR resumed a stalled programme of family-visit flights aimed at helping Western Saharan Refugees with a flight from Smara City in Moroccan-administered Western Sahara bound for Tindouf in Algeria. This was after well-coordinated efforts with all parties involved.

To our disappointment, the 20 passengers on the flight were prevented from disembarking by Frente Polisario representatives in Tindouf. UNHCR had no choice but to fly the passengers back to Smara.

Family-visit flights are an important element in a Confidence Building Measures programme that has been in place since 2004. The flights have been on hold since March. Friday's flight was aimed at restarting the programme and was the result of intensive but constructive negotiations with Morocco and Frente Polisario.

UNHCR is seeking to clarify with Frente Polisario the reasons for the refusal of disembarkation. It is our hope that the Confidence Building Measures programme will be able to resume at the earliest opportunity.