Saharawi refugee children enjoy holidays in peace in Spain

Costa Levante News 12-07-2019

Forty-four years ago, as General Franco lay on his deathbed, the leaders of Morocco and Mauritania decided it was a good time to invade their neighbour, the Spanish territory of Western Sahara. Some of the Saharawi people stayed to defend their homeland, but many, mainly women, children and the elderly, fled east to Algeria where they were given safe haven in La Hamada, an extremely inhospitable part of the Sahara desert.

That was 1975. Today, in 2019, those who fled to safety 44 years ago are still in refugee camps in the Algerian desert, where summer temperatures can reach 50º C, most have not seen the loved ones they left behind in Western Sahara since. Nothing can be grown in the camps, there are no jobs, the people rely on humanitarian aid. Their existence in the refugee camps can't be described as living; they survive, they stay alive. They can't leave because they have no nationality. So they are forced to stay and dow hat they can.

There are many who point the finger of blame at the authorities in Spain, claiming that as a former Spanish colony the government had a resposibility to the Saharawi people.

Spain does send humanitarian aid and the United Nations has always recognised the right of the Saharawi to self determintaion. But still nothing changes for the nearly 200,000 people trapped in the desert refugee camps.

However, amid this stalemate their is a small ray of sunshine. Since 1976 an organisation called Vacaciones en Paz ( Holidays in Peace) has been bringing Saharawi children to stay with families across Spain during July and August, to escape the intense heat of their homes.

I think these families do a great job and I take my hat off to them.

While here the children have done their bit to get their message heard. Here are the articles I've written for the Costa Levante News following their activities this summer.

 

Additional Images: 
Protest in Tavernes
Protest in Tavernes
Saharawi children take their message to Valencia mayor
Saharawi children take their message to Valencia mayor

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