The camps are located in a part of Sahara that has not been inhabited in the past. In the summer the temperatures exceed 50 degrees C. and during winter it is often below freezing. The harsh conditions make the population entirely dependent on international humanitarian aid. In spite of the difficulties, however, the population has managed in a formidable way.
Polisario decided at an early stage that they did not want to make use of international support personnel inside the camps. International aid is therefore organized and distributed by the refugees themselves. International observers characterize the camps as the best organized refugee camps in the world.
Regrettably, in recent years the international aid has been gradually diminished. This makes it increasingly more difficult to uphold acceptable living conditions, causing malnutrition. The Norwegian government is an important donor of humanitarian aid, through its support to the aid organisation Norwegian Church Aid.
Altogether, there are five Saharawi refugee camps, all named after specific locations inside the occupied territory. In each of the camps one generally finds that the inhabitants come from the same areas in the occupied territory.
In addition to the population inside the camps, the Sahrawis are dispersed all over the world. The largest diasporas are found on the Canary Islands and mainland Spain.
The refugee camps can not offer the younger generation any further education. For that reason a few thousand students live in various other countries in North Africa, as well as in Southern Europe and on Cuba. In Norway there are only a few dozens Sahrawis. There are two students currently studying at Red Cross United World Colleges at Fjaler in West Norway.
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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