The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) repatriated on Thursday 201 mostly old and sick Moroccan prisoners of war released by the Polisario Front fighting for the independence of Western Sahara.
The ICRC said one of its teams escorted the prisoners from Tindouf, Algeria, aboard a Red Cross-chartered plane to Morocco’s Inezgane military base near Agadir, 350 km to the northwest.
Before their repatriation, the ICRC interviewed the prisoners individually to ensure they were returning of their own free will. All were allowed to take their personal effects.
The release and repatriation took place three weeks after private talks that ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger had near Tindouf with the secretary-general of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, the ICRC said.
However, the ICRC said it remained concerned about the 1,481 Moroccan POWs still held captive and viewed the repatriation “as a step towards the release of all prisoners”. In February 2000 the ICRC repatriated 186 prisoners released by the Polisario.
While in Tindouf, Kellenberger said a way should be found to settle all the issues relating to the Sahrawi refugees who have been living in exile for years and to families without word of relatives missing in action.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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