Around 100 children from refugee camps in Algeria were allowed to spend the summer with host families in the Canary Islands
Canary Islands – After a two-year break due to the corona pandemic, almost 100 Saharawi children could once again spend the summer in the Canary Islands this summer. Thanks to the “Vacaciones en Paz” (Holidays in Peace) program, they were able to leave the refugee camps in the Tindouf region of southwestern Algeria and spend July and August with host families in the Canary Islands. The mostly eight-year-old children live in the refugee camps in harsh conditions, made even worse by the extreme heat of over 40 degrees in the summer.
In Spain, and especially in the Canary Islands, which are only about a hundred kilometers from El Aaiun in northern Western Sahara, there is a very active solidarity movement with the Saharawis. The “Vacaciones en Paz” program was launched in the mid-1990s by the Association of Friends of the Saharawi People in Spain. The ACAPS association (Asociación Canaria de Amigos del Pueblo Sahrawi) is involved in the Canary Islands and coordinates the stay.
Some of the children who were allowed to participate in the program this year were received by the respective island administrations during their stay.
“It is a pleasure and an honor for us to show our support for the Saharawi people and their aspirations for independence,” Gran Canaria Cabildo President Antonio Morales said at the reception in front of the representative of the Polisario Front in the Canary Islands, Mohamed Said Mohamed, and the host families’ spokeswoman Ana Doreste.
There was also a reception in the Cabildo on Tenerife, and here too those responsible emphasized their solidarity with the Saharawi people.
In mid-August there was a reception at the seat of government on Gran Canaria. There, the children and their host parents were welcomed by the Vice-President of the Government of the Canary Islands, Román Rodríguez, who expressed his joy that the holiday program can take place again after a two-year break. He expressed his gratitude to the Association of Friends of the Saharawi People for their valuable work “to keep alive the flame of solidarity between the Canarian people and the Saharawi people”. Román Rodríguez found clear words about the position of the Canary Islands on the Western Sahara issue. “We stand with the Sahrawis, who are on the side of international legality and human rights,” he declared, adding that the Canarian government will continue to strive, as it has done for the past 47 years, to provide a voice for the people who are abused. of an occupying power. He hopes that one day these people will see the just dream come true and international law and human rights respected.
For his part, Mohamed Said Mohamed of the Sahrawi Liberation Front, Frente Polisario, thanked for the opportunity to continue the holiday program after the pandemic. “These little ones are our ambassadors. There has been a drastic cut in humanitarian aid and that is why we are grateful for the support of the Canary government,” he explained. He expressly thanked the host families whose generosity and solidarity made the holiday program possible.
During the two-month stay with their Canarian host families, the children participated in various activities, were allowed to swim in the sea and, if necessary, received medical treatment. For them, this holiday will surely be one of the most impressive experiences of their childhood.
refugees for life
For more than three decades, Western Sahara has been claimed as an integral part of the Kingdom of Morocco. After the end of the Spanish colonial period in 1975, Morocco and Mauritania annexed the area. The Saharawi Liberation Front, the “Frente Polisario”, which was formed during the Spanish colonial era, is fighting for an independent state. The armed conflict between the “Polisario Front” and Morocco, which forced thousands of Sahrawis to flee to Algeria, ended in 1991 with a cease-fire agreement. The UN’s call for a referendum on Western Sahara’s final status under international law never materialized, and the conflict remains unresolved.
Today, an estimated 180,000 Sahrawis live in refugee camps near the town of Tindouf in the Algerian Sahara. There is conflicting information about the exact number of people in the refugee camps. The people in these desert camps are almost entirely dependent on aids, and the children who grow up there have little future prospects. They lack healthy nutrition, medical care, educational opportunities and much more. During their two-month summer vacation with Canarian host families, these children get to know “normal” life.