ALGERIA – WESTERN SAHARA, EAST OF THE BERMThe Saharawi refugee situation is one of the most protracted conflicts in the world, the Saharawi refugee community enduring its 45th year of displacement.
Saharawi refugees have remained displaced in southwestern Algeria for more than four decades. In 1975, they were forced to flee their homes in Western Sahara as Morocco’s claim over this territory triggered an armed conflict with the Polisario Front, a liberation movement recognised by the United Nations (UN) as the legitimate representative of the Saharawi people. This conflict, still ongoing, has left landmines and explosive devices in Western Sahara, making it one of the most contaminated territories in the world.
Five camps, Laayoune, Smara, Ausserd, Boujdour and Dakhla have been created in Algeria in 1975 to host refugees, who are estimated to be over 173,600 today. Pending a political resolution of the Western Sahara conflict, the refugee population remains entirely dependent on international assistance for its basic needs and remains extremely vulnerable and isolated in a hostile desert environment, with little access to outside resources, and limited opportunities for self-reliance.
The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) started working in the Saharawi Refugee Camps in April 2016, with the implementation of a livelihoods programme targeting Saharawi youth. In 2018, DRC & the Danish Demining Group (DDG) expanded its programming to include Mine Risk Education (MRE) programmes in the Saharawi Refugee Camps for 9 months, in order to reduce civilian casualties due to landmines / Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and improve safe behaviour. 4,765 persons received MRE training in 2018. The education sessions focused on members with a higher risk of exposure, such as animal herders, people making border crossings and those who travel regularly to/within the liberated territories.
DRC-DDG CURRENT PROGRAMMING
Since 2016, and thanks to the support of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the European Union through its Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), DRC has been implementing livelihoods programming in the camps. The programme aims to enhance the self-reliance and resilience of Saharawi refugees, especially youth, by strengthening their economic opportunities and livelihoods capacities, empowering them to meet their needs in a sustainable and dignified manner, while building their livelihoods skills and assets for the future. DRC works closely with Saharawi institutions to:
- Develop the entrepreneurial and technical capacities of youth;
- Support youth in starting and growing a business;
- Reinforce the camps’ entreprenrial ecosystem and markets;
- Strengthen the institutional capacities of Saharawi Authorities.
Building safer communities
In December 2019, DDG resumed its Mine Action activities in order to reduce the impact of mines and Explosive Remnants of War in Western Sahara East of the Berm. This Non-Technical Survey project, funded by UNOPS, aims to improve physical safety for communities, increase the use of productive land and reduce civilian casualties.
DRC-DDG IMPACT NUMBERS 2016-2019
Business Management and Technical Trainings: 3,000 Saharawi youth trained since the inception of the programme.
Business beneficiaries: 890 youth received business grants to start or scale-up their enterprises.
Businesses funded, monitored and coached: 244 micro and small youth-led private and public enterprises supported to start up and expand to date.
Youth Centres: 5 youth centres rehabilitated and/or constructed and equipped, one per camp (Wilaya).
Mine Risk Education: 4,765 persons received MRE training in 2018.