EU: Algeria and the Polisario cornered by aid misappropriation

tindouf-generation-lostThere have been well-founded suspicions for years that the humanitarian aid destined to the Sahrawi populations in the Tindouf camps was stolen. The suspicions were confirmed by a recently disclosed EU report that clearly mentioned the responsibility of Algeria and the Polisario in this misuse.

The report of OLAF, the European Union anti-fraud office, revealed on January 22, is crystal clear. Much of the international aid is diverted as soon as the cargo arrives in the Algerian port of Oran. The products and foodstuffs are immediately sorted out between “what should arrive (in Tindouf) and what can be diverted,” says the Europea Office.

Good quality food products from international aid are exchanged with others of lesser quality, before being sold on the black market, the European survey reveals. Worse, “the products of a poultry project funded by international aid are sold instead of being given to the refugees,” explains OLAF.

These revelations are so embarrassing for Algeria and for the Polisario separatist Front, which claims the independence of Western Sahara.

The report that has just been publicized was draft in 2007 after a lengthy investigation conducted by the EU since 2003. The EU earmarks € 10 million every year to the Sahrawis since 1975.

However, although the report was finalized in 2007, it was kept secret for more than seven years for unknown reasons. Asked to explain this, the European Budget Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva simply said before the European Parliament that the report had been “forgotten”.

One of the reasons that can explain this extraordinary omission is that the report contains the names of Algerian officials involved with the Polisario leaders in this large-scale trafficking. And some sides seem keen on hiding their identity for ever as their names were scratched in the copy of the report made public.

 The survey emphasizes, however, that “one of the reasons that made these frauds possible is the overestimation of the number of refugees and therefore of the aid provided.”  Algeria claims that the number of Sahrawis living in the Tindouf camps amounts to 155,000, with no possibility for the international community to make sure that the number is accurate. In fact, says the EU report, “neither Algeria nor the Polisario Front ever agreed that a census of the population of the camps be organized.”

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