Roehampton University Launches Website

to link Saharawi refugees to rest of world

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A team of students and academics from Roehampton University 's Hispanic Research Centre, has launched Just Messaging the first interactive audiovisual website that links students, staff and the rest of the world to the Saharawi refugees in south western Algeria .

The website was launched after Roehampton staff and students travelled to Dakhla, the most remote of the Saharawi refugee camps around Tindouf, to set up an audiovisual workshop with the refugees, aimed at creating "digital postcards" giving voice to their plight.

The refugees are natives of the Western Sahara and have been in Algeria since the mid-70s. Since then, they have lived in dire conditions, entirely dependent on international aid for basic essentials including food, clothing and water. Separated from family members who live in the Moroccan-controlled parts of the Western Sahara , the Saharawi are calling for a referendum to vote on their independence.

The workshop was led by Isabel Santaolalla, Professor of Spanish and Film Studies at Roehampton University , and involved Andy Hoang, e-Learning Adviser, and five Spanish graduates on an internship at Roehampton: Aurora Aguilella, Kalín Coromina, Teresa Iniesta, Irene León and Yolanda Macías. The team worked to open a line of communication between Roehampton staff and students and the Saharawi. During the workshop the Saharawi were shown the messages recorded in London before learning how to use the audiovisual equipment to record their own.

The launch of the website provides the rest of the world with an opportunity to engage in this dialogue and add their own video postcards.

Professor Santaolalla says,

"In 2008, I visited the Saharawi refugee camps for the first time, and was very touched by their plight. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of people surviving on very little, and yet so full of generosity, hope and optimism for the future. Murgel struck a chord with me: a 15 year old girl with failing sight and no hope of medical attention to prevent eventual blindness.

"The new website provides the Saharawi with a channel of communication for links and interaction with one another, and with their well-wishers overseas."

Roehampton University is a leading institute in human rights studies. As the home of Crucible a centre of excellence in education in human rights, social justice and citizenship and the founder of the world's first Erasmus Mundus Human Rights Practice MA, Roehampton continues to break new ground in this sector.

To learn more about the Sawahari and to view or add a video postcard visit


August 21, 2009