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2014 UNHCR regional operations profile - North Africa

| Overview |

Working environment

The North Africa subregion serves as either a transit or final destination for sizeable mixed migration movements from sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the instability still affecting much of North Africa continues to generate irregular movements from the region to Europe. UNHCR offices throughout North Africa witnessed an increase in the number of asylum-seekers in 2013.

The continuing unrest in the region has had a negative impact on the protection climate, with increased arrests and detention of refugees and asylum-seekers, especially those from sub-Saharan Africa. Terrorist activity in the Sahel and Sinai regions, as well as in Libya, has also affected UNHCR's operations. In Egypt, for instance, the insecurity arising from the recent political crisis has led UNHCR to put new security measures in place for its staff.

Local integration is generally not possible in North Africa, and the prospects for voluntary repatriation for most of the refugee groups in the region are limited. Resettlement remains the main durable solution and continues to be used as a protection tool for the most vulnerable.

By mid-2013, there were more than 31,000 asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in the North Africa subregion. In addition to nearly 47,000 registered refugees in urban areas, there were around 90,000 Sahrawis in the Tindouf camps (Algeria), and some 70,000 Malians in Mbera Camp (Mauritania). UNHCR has registered 141,000 Syrians in the North Africa subregion, some 127,000 of them in Egypt. It is anticipated that the profile of those groups of concern to UNHCR in North Africa will not change significantly in 2014, with the exception of a rise in the number of Syrian refugees.

Most refugees and asylum-seekers in North Africa reside in urban areas. However, UNHCR's urban programmes in the countries of the region are quite small, assisting only a few hundred refugees and asylum-seekers. These people of concern face difficult socio-economic conditions due to the lack of legal status and residence permits; UNHCR helps them gain access to housing and basic social services and works to improve their opportunities for self-reliance.

An increasing number of asylum-seekers from South Sudan and Sudan have been registered by the UNHCR office in Egypt. UNHCR also supports more than 1,300 refugees and asylum-seekers at the Saloum camp near the Egyptian-Libyan border, pending their departure on resettlement or other durable solutions.

Despite the risk of arrest and detention, especially for sub-Saharan Africans, Libya continues to see the arrival of many refugees and asylum-seekers. Pending the setting up of a national asylum system and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Libya and UNHCR, a progressive resumption of registration and refugee status determination (RSD) activities is in progress. UNHCR conducts protection monitoring visits to detention sites where refugees and asylum-seekers are held following interception at sea or upon discovery that they lack valid documentation.

Thousands of Syrians have reportedly arrived in Algeria by air. Malians who sought safety in Algeria in 2012 are being hosted by families along the border. Both the Malians and Syrians are being assisted by the Algerian Red Crescent.

In Morocco, UNHCR saw a tripling in the number of asylum-seekers, with most coming from Côte d'Ivoire and the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria). UNHCR advocated for temporary protection for asylum-seekers and in September 2013 the Government announced that an Ad hoc Committee would be established to review and recognize people of concern in the country. This is an important step forward whereby the Government of Morocco seeks to assume responsibility for developing asylum procedures in conformity with international standards. In 2014, UNHCR will therefore support efforts to build the capacity of the local authorities to establish national asylum infrastructure by providing training, conducting workshops and facilitating professional exchanges. .

There are some 70,000 Malian refugees in Mauritania at Mbera camp, near the border with Mali. Movements into the country and spontaneous returns have stabilized. Biometric registration that is being performed by UNHCR and the Government is expected to enhance the protection space afforded to this group. More than 3,000 refugees (37 per cent) in Mbera camp voted in the 2013 Mali presidential elections.

The Confidence Building Measures (CBM) programme for Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps, Algeria, will continue in 2014 in an effort to meet the humanitarian needs of families who have been separated for a prolonged period of time. The measures will also reduce the psychological isolation of the refugees by restoring family and community links. The CBM activities complement the efforts of the United Nations to find a political solution to this protracted refugee situation, which has lasted more than 38 years.

| Response |

Strategies

  • UNHCR's efforts will continue to focus on the safeguarding and expansion of protection space; the establishment of responsive national asylum systems; and the promotion of protection-sensitive management of mixed migration movements.

  • UNHCR will also seek to expand partnerships with States, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society to develop fair and efficient legislative and administrative frameworks for asylum. The Office's strategic priorities are to deliver life-saving assistance, ensure protection for all people of concern, seek durable solutions including resettlement as a protection tool and prepare for new emergencies.

Challenges

The key challenge facing UNHCR in North Africa is the continuing arrival of large numbers of asylum-seekers while countries in the region are unstable and going through a period of transition.

This is exacerbated by the absence of national and regional strategies for managing mixed migration movements, and the lack of national asylum systems consistent with international standards.

In the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, the effects of the global financial crisis are aggravating the challenges faced by Sahrawi refugees. Several bilateral donors recently ceased or severely limited their support for the provision of essential and basic services; this has had an impact on UNHCR's humanitarian programme and life-saving assistance. Furthermore, security concerns also led some bilateral donors to withdraw support in 2013, leaving the prospects for 2014 unclear.

In Libya, large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers without prospects of a durable solution are taking the risk of engaging people smugglers in illegal boat movements across the Mediterranean. In 2014 UNHCR will intensify efforts to address such mixed migration phenomena in a comprehensive manner, working with Governments, IOM and NGOs.

Fragile security and instability in Egypt have added to the challenges of managing existing populations of concern and stretched host communities' tolerance for the growing number of Syrians arriving in the country. The Office will continue to advocate to maintain this protection space in 2014, and will seek to expand its response to the growing number of Syrian arrivals through the opening of an annex in the Cairo office and a field office in Alexandria.

Mauritania is grappling with the complexities of registering and delivering an assistance programme for the Malian refugees in Mbera camp. In 2014, close attention will be given to opportunities for voluntary return by these refugees to their homes in Mali.

| Implementation |

Operations

UNHCR's operations in Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania are covered in separate chapters.

In Tunisia, the Government remains committed to developing an asylum law and procedure. UNHCR and its partners are working to enhance the capacity of national officials to ensure a protection-sensitive approach to border management. With the closure of Shousha camp in June 2013 there are still some 300 people with rejected claims. UNHCR is working with its partners and the Government to find solutions for this group as well as for recognized refugees who are not likely to be resettled.

Nearly 20,000 people (including some 2,800 at the time of writing in 2013) have benefitted from the family visits under the Confidence Building Measures programme. More than 48,000 people have registered for the programme since its inception in 2004 and further expansion will continue in 2014 in addition to cultural seminars.

In Morocco, the Government announced the development and establishment of a national asylum system. The Ad hoc Committee (of which UNHCR is a member) met in September 2013 and began reviewing cases with a view to regularizing the situation of people of concern, in accordance with international legal standards. UNHCR will continue to support building the capacity of government institutions and civil society in the country.

To date, UNHCR in Libya has registered more than 7,600 refugees and nearly 18,000 asylum-seekers, including Syrians. However, unconfirmed estimates put the number of Syrians in Libya at some 110,000. In 2014, UNHCR will seek support for its activities from the nationalauthoritiesandotherpartners in the country. It will visit and provide assistance to people of concern in detention and advocate for alternatives to incarceration. UNHCR will also strengthen registration, ensure adequate protection mechanisms are in place, provide capacity building workshops to Government officials, and reinforce the pursuit of durable solutions.

| Financial information |

Over the last four years, UNHCR's financial requirements in the North Africa sub-region have increased significantly from USD 47 million in 2010 to a high of USD 171.3 million in 2012, in response to the multiple refugee crises that swept the region in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the conflict in northern Mali. Though the situation in Mali has since stabilized, the crisis in Syria has driven large numbers of refugees to North Africa. The 2014 financial requirements for the sub-region are set at USD 158.5 million, with almost the entire budget allocated to the refugee programme.

UNHCR budgets for North Africa (USD)
Operation 2013
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2013)
2014 2015
Refugee
programme
PILLAR 1
Stateless
programme
PILLAR 2
IDP
projects
PILLAR 4
Total
Total 167,138,406 157,804,834 509,962 150,000 158,464,796 154,649,114
Algeria 28,170,158 32,659,529 0 0 32,659,529 32,742,980
Egypt Regional Office 63,048,620 65,034,985 69,962 0 65,104,948 65,104,196
Libya 17,255,113 17,508,000 340,000 150,000 17,998,000 18,359,760
Mauritania 29,967,648 23,960,463 0 0 23,960,463 22,393,871
Morocco 3,268,226 3,516,920 0 0 3,516,920 3,516,920
Tunisia 14,578,650 5,836,778 0 0 5,836,778 4,200,000
Western Sahara (Confidence Building Measures) 10,381,830 8,838,157 0 0 8,838,157 7,931,386
Regional activities 468,161 450,000 100,000 0 550,000 400,000

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105


UNHCR contact information

UNHCR, Confidence Building Measures
Style of Address Head of Operations
Street Address Ville 04 Quartier Moulay Rachid 165, Rue Al Zarktouni, Laayoune, Western Sahara
Mailing Address Case Potale 755, Code 70000, Laayoune, Western Sahara
Telephone +212528892369
Facsimile +212528893097
Email wshla@unhcr.org
Time Zone GMT + 0:00
Working Hours
Monday:AM: 08:30-13:00, PM: 15:00-18:00
Tuesday:AM: 08:30-13:00, PM: 15:00-18:00
Wednesday:AM: 08:30-13:00, PM: 15:00-18:00
Thursday:AM: 08:30-13:00, PM: 15:00-18:00
Friday:AM: 08:30-13:00.
Saturday:
Sunday:
Public Holidays 03 January 2011, New year's Day
15 February 2011, Prophet's Birthday
22 April 2011, Good Friday
02 May 2011, Labour Day
29 July 2011, National Day
31 August 2011, Eid-AL-Fitr
24 October 2011, UN Day
07 November 2011, Eid-Al- Adha
18 November 2011, National Day
26 December 2011, Christmas Day
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UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Originating from Western Sahara Territory [1]
Refugees [2]
More info 116,504
According to the Government of Algeria, there are an estimated 165,000 Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps.
Asylum Seekers [3] 411
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 116,915

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Western Sahara Territory UNHCR Maps Rss FeedUNHCR Maps

Confidence Building Measures 2009/2010 Western Sahara

Information brochure about UNHCR's Confidence Building Measures programme aimed at addressing the effects of prolonged separation between the Saharan refugees in the camps near Tindouf, Algeria and their families in Western Sahara.

Western Sahara Family Visits

Emotions are running high in the Sahara desert as families split for nearly three decades by conflict over sovereignty of the Western Sahara Territory are being briefly reunited by a UNHCR family visit scheme.

Living in five windswept and isolated camps around Tindouf in south-western Algeria for the last 28 years, the refugees have been almost totally cut off from their relatives in the Territory. So when the UN refugee agency launched its five-day family visit scheme in March this year, there were tears of joy as well as apprehension at the prospect of reunion.

The visit scheme is proving extremely popular, with more than 800 people already having visited their relatives and another 18,000 signed up to go. In addition to the family visit scheme, the UN refugee agency has opened telephone centres in some of the camps, creating another channel through which long-lost family members can make contact.

Photos taken in June 2004.

Western Sahara Family Visits

Sighted off Spain's Canary Islands

Despite considerable dangers, migrants seeking a better future and refugees fleeing war and persecution continue to board flimsy boats and set off across the high seas. One of the main routes into Europe runs from West Africa to Spain's Canary Islands.

Before 2006, most irregular migrants taking this route used small vessels called pateras, which can carry up to 20 people. They left mostly from Morocco and the Western Sahara on the half-day journey. The pateras have to a large extent been replaced by boats which carry up to 150 people and take three weeks to reach the Canaries from ports in West Africa.

Although only a small proportion of the almost 32,000 people who arrived in the Canary Islands in 2006 applied for asylum, the number has gone up. More than 500 people applied for asylum in 2007, compared with 359 the year before. This came at a time when the overall number of arrivals by sea went down by 75 percent during 2007.

Sighted off Spain's Canary Islands

Portugal: Sahrawi Cultural GatheringPlay video

Portugal: Sahrawi Cultural Gathering

People from Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria and from Western Sahara Territory meet for a cultural seminar in the Azores Islands as part of a confidence building measures programme.