''The day the Sahara becomes free, the colours of our flag will change''

The Sahrawi people have been living in exile for more than 40 years. Half of the population lives in Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation, suffering from a constant violation of human rights. The other half live in a refugee situation in the middle of the Sahara desert (Tindouf, Algeria).

WALL OF SHAME: The largest wall in the world, 2.700km long, full of landmines and with the presence of the Moroccan army, this wall isolates the Saharawi population living in Western Sahara (occupied zone).

REFUGEE CAMPS: The camps are composed of five wilayas: Smara, Auserd, Boujdour, Laayoune and Dakhla.

Did you know that SADR is the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and that Western Sahara was a Spanish province in Africa between 1958 and 1976?

However, Spain left the territory uncolonised and, instead of holding the referendum on self-determination it had announced in 1974, it signed the Madrid Tripartite Agreements on 14 November 1975, ceding administration of the territory – but not sovereignty – to Morocco and Mauritania. This followed the Green March, the manoeuvre staged by Hasan II, King of Morocco, to force Spain to hand over its colony.

The Sahrawis rejected the occupation and fought a war with the Moroccans and Mauritanians. Tens of thousands fled into the desert to escape the conflict and set up the Tindouf refugee camps in Algerian territory. Today, some 175,000 people subsist there, in a very vulnerable situation and dependent on international aid.  In the meantime, many Sahrawis remained on their land, under occupation.

In the 1980s, Morocco built a wall of about 2,700 square kilometres cutting through the desert to secure the useful Sahara and militarily contain the Polisario (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Sahara). It is the longest wall in the world and the area with the most landmines on the planet.
In 1991 a ceasefire was signed between the Polisario and Morocco, under UN auspices. MINURSO, the UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara, was created to prepare for the vote and observe the ceasefire. It is the only UN mission that does not have a human rights monitoring component.

Since the 1990s, both the Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf and those living under Moroccan occupation have been awaiting a solution that neither the UN nor the influential powers in the area (Spain and France) have provided.