To compensate or not to compensate? Law, property and Sahrawi refugees in Algeria

Wilson, Alice (2018) To compensate or not to compensate? Law, property and Sahrawi refugees in Algeria. In: Ben Hounet, Yazid and Dupret, Baudouin (eds.) Law and property in Algeria: anthropological perspectives. Brill, Leiden, pp. 142-163. ISBN 9789004362116

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Refugees may, if they do not return home, be eligible for compensation for property lost upon going into exile. This paper considers the question of refugees being eligible for, and receiving, material compensation from other refugees in internal disputes taking place in exile. Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara have been in exile in Algeria since 1976, following Morocco’s partial annexation of Western Sahara in 1975. Sahrawi exiles live in refugee camps in Algeria that are administered as a “state within a state” by an administrative fusion of the liberation movement of Western Sahara, Polisario Front, and the partially recognized state authority that Polisario has founded for Western Sahara, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the refugee camps 2006-2012, this paper examines how pre-exile practices of compensation payments in internal disputes virtually disappeared in the early period of exile. This shift reflected practical and ideological reasons: in practical terms, refugees were dispossessed and thus divested of property with which to make payments, and ideologically Polisario focused on popularised justice, which encouraged questions of compensation to be deferred until after national liberation, and discouraged questions of tribes, the social context in which compensation payments had previously occurred. Nevertheless, after the ceasefire in 1991, judicial administration in the refugee camps was professionalized. This paper explores one somewhat paradoxical consequence facilitated by this professionalization, as well as by a rise in living standards in the camps. Compensation payments in internal disputes reappeared to a limited degree, and in the context of tribes. The professionalization of justice, with its focus on the formalization of SADR laws, thus coincided with the resurgence of compensation payments arranged between tribes.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Law, property, compensation, refugees, tribes, Western Sahara
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Depositing User: Alice Wilson
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 14:10
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2019 14:21

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