UNHCR Calls on Morocco and Algeria to Help Trapped Syrian Refugees

By Hassane Elayyadi

Rabat - On Tuesday, the UNHCR called for urgent action to help Syrian refugees who have been trapped for more than a month and a half in a remote buffer zone between Morocco and Algeria.

Forty-one refugees including women and children, continue to suffer in dire conditions near the Moroccan town of Figuig where they have been stranded since April 17, 2017.

To address the needs of the refugees, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) called for prompt action from both Morocco and Algeria.

A press release explained, “prompt action by both governments, is needed in facilitating the immediate and safe passage of the forty-one vulnerable Syrian refugees, among them children, babies and women – including at least one pregnant woman reportedly in need of urgent Caesarean section.”

The press release emphasized the urgency of the situation adding, “It is a matter of life and death.”

Describing the conditions of the refugees, Boubker Largou, president of the Moroccan Observatory for Human Rights (OMDH), told HuffPost Maroc that sand storms are common and that "the peaks of heat [can be] particularly difficult to bear, especially between 11 am and 1 pm, when the temperature hits 42 to 43°C.” Snakes and scorpions are also a threat in the region.

While some local associations have been able to occasionally supply water, food and medicine to the group of refugees, the refugees continue to need humanitarian aid. Due to the remoteness of the area and the unresolved disputes between Morocco and Algeria providing aid is difficult.

Largou explained: "The population of Figuig can help them, but outside help is impossible, because of the multiple police checks and security barriers."

To address these ongoing issues, the press release issued by the UNHRC urged Morocco and Algeria to work with the commission to end the “dangerous and untenable situation for these stranded desperate Syrian refugees.”

Moroccan authorities have already agreed to grant entry visas to nine of the stranded refugees who already have relatives legally living in Morocco but tension between Algeria and Morocco persists.

Moroccan authorities reiterated their condemnation of their Algerian counterparts "inhumane behavior" towards the refugees. According to Moroccan officials, the group of Syrians were forced by Algeria to try to enter Morocco through the town of Figuig. Algerian authorities denied these accusations and insist that Morocco had tried to move the Syrians from Morocco to Algeria.

Morocco has not changed its official position from what was expressed on April 27 by the Minister attached to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for Moroccans living abroad and Migration Affairs, Abdelkrim Benatiq.

Morocco's Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani, reiterated this position in a statement that indicated that the government preferred to focus on the "joint and collective" responsibility of the international community towards these refugees.”

Edited by Erin Dunne




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