Sahrawi refugees: alleged “misappropriation” of humanitarian aid has been denied by the EU

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APS BRUSELAS .- Algerian ambassador to Brussels, Amar Belani, denounced on Saturday the “disinformation campaign” carried out by the Moroccan media on an alleged “hijacking of European humanitarian aid granted to Saharawi refugees”, noting that these allegations ” “have been clearly denied by senior EU officials in charge of the case.

“The Moroccan media have been carrying out a rabid disinformation campaign for the past few weeks aimed at making public opinion believe that the humanitarian aid that the EU is granting to Saharawi refugees is being diverted by the Polisario Front and our country”, deplored Mr. Belani in response to a question from the APS on the campaign waged by the Moroccan media.

“To these unfounded allegations, reiterated repeatedly since 2015 by diplomats from this country and their relays at European Parliament level (far right MEPs, in particular), and which cannot go unanswered, the facts should be recalled following, as they appear from the official statements of the senior EU officials in charge of the file, in particular, the official responses formulated by the various Commissioners questioned on this issue, “said Mr Belani.

These includes the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Januz Lenarcic, who pointed out in writing, on July 2, 2020, in response to MEP Dominque Bilde (National Gathering “ex Front national”) that ” for the diversion of humanitarian aid, I want to assure you that we have strong guarantees on the spot. ”

“I can assure you that our guarantees are robust enough to prevent any diversion of EU aid,” he added.

For her part, the former European Commissioner responsible for the budget, Kristalina Georgieva, had pointed out, during a debate before the Committee on Budgetary Control of the European Parliament, held on March 24, 2015, that “the accusations of misappropriation of humanitarian aid intended for the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf are unjust, in particular following the robust measures taken by the European Commission “.

This same official, recalled Mr. Bellani, had circulated, on January 25, 2016, a document to the members of the Committee on Budgetary Control of the European Parliament, in which she affirms that the European Commission “carried out 24 monitoring and control during the year 2015 in the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf and that its representatives are present on the scene two weeks per month, in order to ensure the most efficient use of EU funding “.

For his part, the European Commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis management at the time, Christos Stylianides, had indicated, in his response dated 27 April 2016 to a written question which had been sent to him by MEP Hugues Bayet (Rassemblement national “ex Front national), that” it is not for the EU to carry out a census of refugees “and to add that” this question must be examined within the framework of the process led by the United Nations”.

“The implementation of this component relating to the census only makes sense in the context of the effective convening of a multiple-choice referendum without administrative and / or military constraints, in order to allow the people of Western Sahara to exercise its right to self-determination and freely choose its destiny in accordance with international law, “he said.

Referring to the management and delivery of humanitarian aid, Commissioner Stylianides sharply denied these allegations of embezzlement, stressing that “the Commission’s humanitarian aid is neither provided nor controlled by any political authority”.

In addition, in his speech to the Committee on Budgetary Control in the European Parliament, on July 14, 2015, the former Director-General of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DG ECHO), Claus Sorensen, dismantled the “especial” arguments of the president of the Committee on Budgetary Control, Ingebourg Grassle, who had convened the session specially to put back on the carpet the OLAF report dated from It should, in this regard, specify that this report was classified, without further action by the European authorities, following an “internal audit which demonstrated the” lightness and discordance of the stories and testimonies related therein “.

DG ECHO had, in response, presented the system for controlling the flow of European aid, a system described as extremely “rigorous” and “complete”. Based on “solid” arguments, DG ECHO told the audience that “the operation has been going on since 2003 with the preparation of 36 audit reports, 8 of which were carried out in the Saharawi camps”.

On this occasion, he pleaded in favor of maintaining humanitarian aid to the Saharawi refugees, while firmly stressing that “after thorough investigation, the names suggested on the basis of rumors in the OLAF report (Polisario and Algerian Red Crescent ), have no relation to EU humanitarian aid “.