HC Deb 26 April 1993 vol 223 cc725-6
41. Mr. Corbyn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what aid has been given to refugees from the western Sahara; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has a $3.5 million programme for Saharawi refugees in Algeria; food aid is provided additionally by the World Food Programme at a cost of $2.5 million.

Mr. Corbyn

Is not it a tragedy that the Saharawi people have had to spend nearly 20 years living in refugee camps in exile in Algeria? Is not it high time that a referendum was held so that the people of western Sahara can decide their own future? Will the Minister undertake to put pressure on the Government of Morocco to persuade them to cease their silly games over the make-up of the electoral roll under which the referendum can be held, so that the United Nations can supervise a referendum that can decide on the peaceful future of western Sahara and allow those poor unfortunate people stuck in refugee camps to return to their homes?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Government have adopted a policy of strict neutrality between all the parties. However, I very much agree that the referendum is the way forward and, therefore, essential. As the hon. Gentleman will also be aware, Security Council resolution 809, which was adopted unanimously on 2 March, invited the Secretary-General to intensify efforts to resolve the problems of, in particular, voter eligibility, so that the referendum could take place. It must take place.

Sir David Steel

Can the Minister give the House an undertaking that British personnel who are assisting United Nations operations in the western Sahara will not be withdrawn pending the forthcoming visit of the United Nations special representative?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The position with MINURSO—the United Nations Miss ion for the referendum—to which we have attached 15 military observers at a cost of £4.75 million annually, is that we have agreed to extend current deployment until September.