Algeria - Saharawi response / Western Sahara (East of the Berm)

Country facts

DRC present since


DRC staff on location


People affected


Displacement Situation

After 45 years of displacement, the Saharawi refugee crisis is one of the most protracted in the world. The Saharawi refugees living in camps in southwestern Algeria were forced to flee their homes in Western Sahara in 1975, when Morocco’s claim over the territory triggered an armed conflict with the Polisario Front, a liberation movement recognized by the United Nations (UN) as the legitimate representative of the Saharawi people.

Nearly half a century later, this conflict is still ongoing and has left landmines and explosive devices scattered across Western Sahara, making it one of the most contaminated territories in the world. Pending a political resolution of the Western Sahara conflict, the Sahrawi refugee population remains stuck in remote refugee camps and entirely dependent on international assistance for basic needs. Sahrawi refugees remain extremely vulnerable and isolated in a hostile desert environment, with little access to outside resources, and limited opportunities for self-reliance.

DRC Response

DRC is active in five different refugee camps in southwestern Algeria, working with Saharawi refugees from Western Sahara. Starting in 2016, the DRC launched livelihood programmes in Saharawi communities to increase the population’s self-reliance and integrate young people into the labour market. These programmes are carried out in cooperation with the Saharawi Ministry of Youth and Sport. The programmes provide business training, business and start-up support grants, and technical support, helping beneficiaries successfully and sustainably integrate themselves into the local economy.

In 2018, under the Danish Demining Group (DDG), DRC Algeria expanded its programming to include Mine Risk Education programmes in the Saharawi Refugee Camps. This 9-moth programme aimed to reduce civilian casualties from landmines and Explosive Remnants of War as well as improve safe behaviour. In 2019, DRC-DDG undertook a Non-Technical Survey project in Western Sahara, East of the Berm, along with provision of risk education and community liaison. This work is aimed at ensuring the safety of those who return or travel and to enable efficient clearance of the contaminated areas. 


James Curtis

Regional Director

[email protected]

Laurence Marie Desvignes

Head of Office

[email protected]