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Demographics of Western Sahara: Map


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The demographics of Western Saharamarker are in the frame work of the demographics of Morocco since the territory is de facto a part of the kingdom of Moroccomarker. The population of Western Sahara is pre-dominantly Moroccan. The indigeous Sahrawis are a minority in Western Sahara.

CIA World Factbook demographic statistics

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.

Ethnic groups

The ethnic groups in Western Sahara consist of two Arab peoples.
  • Moroccans: 200.000
  • Sahrawis : 67.000

Western Sahara is also home of 100 native-born Spanish residents.


The Arabic language in its standard variety is the official language in the entire territory. However, the Hassaniya variety is the most spoken native language. Spanish, the former colonial language and French, the second language of Morocco and most of western Africa are both extensively used as second languages.


Sunni Islam is the major religion in Western Saharamarker as it is in Moroccomarker. Sunni Muslims constitute about 99.9% of the population.


Moroccan(s), Sahrawi(s)
Moroccan, Sahrawi


267,405 (July 2004 est.)

Age structure

0–14 years:
15–64 years:
65 years and over:

Population growth rate

2.29% (2000 est.)

Birth rate

45.07 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate

16.11 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate

-6.05 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate

133.59 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population:
49.81 years
48.65 years
51.33 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate

6.64 children born/woman (2000 est.)


total population:


Arabic is the official language of Western Sahara and Morocco. Both Moroccan Arabic and Hassaniya Arabic are used in Western Sahara. The first being the pre-dominant one. Hassaniya, primarily spoken at home, is dominated by the Moroccan dialect spoken in the streets, workplace, and schools. This is because the great majority of the population consists of Moroccans who settled in Western Sahara. And Spanish as second language, obligatory in the scholar curriculum, and language of culture; last studies prove that many people(76,3 per cent) can understand Spanish, and a 50 per cent, can speak it and read it .


The events triggered by the Moroccan and Mauritanian invasions of Western Saharamarker at the end of 1975 are directly linked to the large displacement of the Saharawi population, most of whom live as refugees in south-west Algeriamarker. The major bulk of Saharawis became refugees during the war between Polisario and Moroccomarker. At that point, it became evident that the Polisario resistance forces were no match for the Moroccan armed forces. The south-western desert region near Tindoufmarker offered a potential safe region. Algeria ,in its rivalry with Morocco, offered the Sahrawis a place to settle and actively supported the guerilla-movement of the Polisario.

The next Saharawi exodus, although on a smaller scale, took place in 1979 when Mauritaniamarker withdrew from the conflict and Morocco annexed the rest of Western Sahara. Exact figures cannot be provided for the numbers that fled the territory in those two waves, but the current size of the population in the refugee camps is believed to be in the region of 165,000.

Used by the Algerian government, this figure is the most widely quoted by NGOs and is also used by the UNHCR and the World Food Programme to raise funds for food aid to the refugees. In the 2004 WFP meeting in Rome, the number of refugees was officially recognized at 158,000.

See also


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