Playing Politics with Refugees

Western Sahara -- a North African territory and one of the last remaining official colonies, or non-self governing territories -- is controlled by Morocco. The Polisario Front, a political group of indigenous Sahrawis, wants independence. Tens of thousands of Sahrawis live in Polisario-run refugee camps in Algeria. Recently, "a delegation of six Sahrawi refugees ... visited New York and Washington to talk about their suffering under the Polisario Front." But human rights groups disputed their accounts, and the refugees' trip "was sponsored by a lobbying group for Morocco," the Moroccan American Center for Policy. Eric Goldstein of Human Rights Watch said, "The reason Morocco is funding their trip is to try to discredit the Polisario at a moment when they hope that its own proposal for autonomy will prevail." Morocco and the Polisario Front have been unable to agree on the details of a United Nations proposal to hold a referendum on the future of Western Sahara. As an alternative, Morocco proposed limited autonomy for Western Sahara, "under the purview of Morocco," which is a deal breaker for the Polisario.