Since the establishment of the Mission, MINURSO headquarters has been located in Laayoune, the main city in Western Sahara. The compound is a former school provided by the Moroccan government, close to the Wadi Saguia.
Progressively, the area urbanized and currently includes a hospital, a detention center, markets, mosques, schools, warehouses and military and police barracks.
In Laayoune HQ are located the main offices, including the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the military component command entities. It also hosts the medical unit (currently provided by a Malaysian contingent) and the bulk of the civilian administration offices, in addition to logistic and welfare areas.
In 1994, when the identification process started (IDC), the Moroccan government provided MINURSO with another compound, close to the Mission HQ, were all the identification process-related activities were concentrated.
In 2004, after a progressive scale down, the IDC was dissolved, and some offices of the HQ moved there.
In line with the guidelines of United Nations Headquarters in New York, MINURSO carried out a large program of re-assessment of its premises, relocating all logistic activities in the MINURSO Logistic Base (MLB), a compound located in the outskirt of Laayoune.
The Mission’s commitment to rationalize and improve its logistic capabilities is fundamental in a hard environment such as Western Sahara. Looking to improvement the working conditions of its staff, the Mission also enhanced the premises in Laayoune airport to guarantee effectiveness in such a pivotal area of the logistic and operational chain.
Tindouf Liaison Office, facilitated by the government of Algeria, was originally meant as a military liaison office. It expanded greatly during the identification process; subsequently, MINURSO decided to create the civilian post of Chief Liaison Officer as head of the Office, in addition to the senior military liaison officer. The primary tasks of the CLO are to liaise with the Frente POLISARIO, one of the two parties to the conflict over Western Sahara; to liaise with the Government of Algeria, a neighbouring country to the conflict and host country to the Western Saharan refugees; and with the UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations on the ground which assist the refugee population.
The Western Saharans fled the territory at the start of the war, in 1976; the refugee camps surround the city of Tindouf. All the camps bear the names of cities and towns in Western Sahara: El Aioun (Laayoune), Smara, Awsard and Dakhla. UNHCR and WFP assist the refugee population with the help of various other UN agencies, including UNICEF and WHO, operating from Algiers; the European Union’s humanitarian office, ECHO; a Spanish bilateral agency, Cooperacion Espanola; and ICRC. A number of humanitarian NGOs operate directly in the refugee camps.