The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is a vast territory with more than 5,000 km of borders and with a long-standing tradition of migration and hospitality. Due to its geographical position, the country has become an important transit site for migratory movements, including for irregular migrants journeying to Europe. Controlling the vast maritime and land borders of Mauritania remains a major challenge for the state, as does the provision of assistance to migrants in its territory. Government authorities have expressed their request to IOM for support with migration management. In response, IOM developed a comprehensive approach designed to reinforce the capacities of the concerned government institutions in order to strengthen the border management capacities of the Mauritanian government. IOM has also developed projects seeking to enhance security in the Sahel region by reinforcing the development of joint border management capabilities in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania faces several challenges with regard to border management due to the combination of various geographic, demographic, economic, political and social factors. With a territory of 1,030,700 km2 and only 3.5 million inhabitants, Mauritania is a vast, largely uninhabited country. With only 47 border posts to cover more than 5,000 km of land borders and 800 kilometres of coastline, border control and security management is a significant challenge. Given its geographic location south of the Sahara, the porosity of its borders, and the economic opportunities available in the country, Mauritania is subject to increasing migration inflows, transit flows and trans-border threats such as cattle thefts, irregular migration, terrorism and trafficking of arms, people and drugs. Furthermore, authorities often lack the necessary means and resources to effectively implement and maintain border controls and security. This prompted the Mauritanian government to take action, requesting assistance from IOM to develop strategies to protect and assist its citizens and travellers by enhancing national border management, increasing available resources, implementing improved procedures and drafting legislation. For example, in 2015, IOM provided technical assistance for the development of the National Border Management Strategy of Mauritania. IOM is also collaborating with the government and its partners to increase national border management capacity within Mauritania and throughout the Sahel sub-region.
- Strengthening Border Management in Mauritania – The Involvement of the Gendarmerie
(December 2013 - July 2016)
Donor: European Union (EU)
This on-going project is part of the EU’s technical assistance to Mauritania for the implementation of the National Migration Strategy (June 2011). Implemented in direct coordination with the Ministry of Interior and Decentralisation and the Mauritanian Gendarmerie, this project aims at improving the capacity of the National Gendarmerie and Border Police in several security related areas. The project activities include reinforcing security and protecting travellers along Mauritania’s southern border by addressing the challenges of border management and transnational threats to security. Support to the Gendarmerie includes the development, revision and realisation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on international practices; the construction of four border posts and a transnational coordination centre; the provision of technical equipment; and the organisation of a capacity building and training session on border management. A six-month extension will also allow IOM Mauritania to facilitate the voluntary return and the reintegration of 60 irregular migrants in Mauritania wishing to return to their countries of origin.
- Countering Irregular Migration, Organized Crime and Terrorism in Mauritania
(May 2016 – May 2017)
Donor: Government of Japan
The traditional trade routes traverse Mauritania’s barren and largely uninhabited countryside. With only about 50 border posts stretching across more than 5,800 km of land and sea frontier, border control is a significant challenge for which the government has limited capacity. Mauritania’s porous borders and uninhabited spaces make it a perfect retreat for organized crime networks. These criminal networks prey on desperate individuals hoping to migrate to other areas for better opportunities. This has resulted in an increase in reported human trafficking cases. In order to erase the scourge of terrorism and illicit trafficking in the region, its sources of support and funding must urgently be understood and disrupted. But to do this, Mauritanian security officials must have the tools and the knowledge necessary to address this continuing and growing security threat. The project, “Countering irregular migration, organized crime and terrorism in Mauritania” funded by the Government of Japan, addresses this significant information gap, allowing border control and security officials to have a clear and comprehensive view of the threat and access reliable, accurate information.
In addition to working bilaterally with the Government of Mauritania, IOM has been a strategic partner to enhance efficient and effective border controls between Mauritania and its neighbours. For example, between 2010 and 2013, IOM Mauritania implemented several projects to increase border control procedures, particularly on the Mauritanian side of the border with Senegal. In 2013, IOM’s offices in Mauritania and Mali agreed to partner towards a better management and security of vulnerable border areas between the two countries, thus strengthening national and regional security mechanisms and addressing cross-border threats. This required joint training of border management supervisors, bilateral coordination and information sharing between the Border Police of Mauritania and Mali, improvement of Border Police performance, and the active participation of local communities in the protection of border areas. Furthermore IOM is restoring the major border post between Mauritania and Mali at Gogui.
IOM is also working with G5 Sahel countries through an initiative funded by the Government of Japan. The “Coordinated Border Management in Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso” project aims to improve regional security in the Sahel by enhancing operational and strategic capacities and promote regional solutions on immigration and border management.
- Enhancing Security in the Sahel
(March 2015 - September 2016)
Donor: Government of Japan
The Sahel region is one of the most unpredictable and volatile regions in Africa today. The porous and largely unregulated borders are a major contributing factor to insecurity in West Africa and in the Maghreb. Weak border controls have allowed transnational criminal and terrorist groups (such as AQIM, MUJAO, Ansar al-Sharia, Boko Haram, Al-Mulathameen Brigades) to expand activities in recent months with relative ease throughout the region with negative impacts on the local populations.
In this context, IOM will work within Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to assess and enhance their respective border management control mechanisms and enhance regional security in the Sahel by developing stronger and more coherent approaches to border management. More specifically, it will focus on strengthening operational and strategic capacities to foster stronger connections between migration control and law enforcement systems among the States in the Sahel. A parallel JICA-funded specific initiative will be closely coordinated in Niger, the most fragile country among the ones partnering on the project, to ensure resource efficiency and maintain successful results at regional level.
The overall implementation of the project will be carried out at the regional level with a strong emphasis on supporting the implementation of specific and adapted country-level interventions.
- Immigration and Border Management between Mauritania and Mali
(March 2015 - March 2017)
Donor: Government of Japan
Border crossings between Mauritania and Mali are often poorly manned and equipped. Several unofficial border crossings remain uncontrolled. In addition, there is generally little communication or coordination between regional and central offices. This makes the enhancement of the collective capacity of border management an essential task to ensure the security of citizens and travellers in the region. To ensure effective management of the border areas between Mauritania and Mali, IOM offices in both countries are implementing a project where both countries can work together to develop a national strategy for border management and to improve bilateral coordination and collaboration by border officials. This will allow IOM to create synergies among various complementary IOM programs to enhance border security and improve border management capacity in the Sahel Region.
The humanitarian situation in Southeast Mauritania remains precarious. Since the outbreak of violence in Northern Mali in 2012, tens of thousands of people have sought refuge in the region, prompting the establishment of the refugee camp by the UNHCR. Since then, the population of Bassikounou, the region’s largest city has nearly doubled, putting stress on an already fragile environment and on limited resources available to populations. Violence in Mali also disrupted the seasonal cross border flows of nomadic cattle herders between the two countries. This situation has put extreme pressure on the environment and the ecosystem already at risk due to extreme climate conditions such as intense desertification. This humanitarian and ecological crisis also spurs the threat of conflict among local communities as well as between locals and refugees over dwindling resources.
- Community Stabilization and Conflict Prevention: Humanitarian Assistance to Host Communities and Refugees
(August 2015 – August 2016)
Donor: Government of the United States of America
In response to the food and nutrition security crisis affecting the residents of the Bassikounou department in Southeast Mauritania, IOM is implementing a program of humanitarian assistance funded by the Government of the United States aimed at fighting food insecurity and increasing the livelihoods of migrants, refugees and their host communities in the region.
The community stabilization project introduces the concept of “integrated farms” in targeted villages to strengthen the communities’ resilience to poor climate conditions by diversifying and increasing the nutritional resources at their disposal. This project, implemented in partnership with the OHCHR, will also establish ‘mixed committees’ made up of members of the refugee, transient, and local communities in order to ensure a peaceful coexistence between refugees and host communities and facilitate the sharing of resources in a difficult environment characterized by insufficient water resources and a scarcity of arable land.
IOM has been working to counter the trafficking in persons since 1994. In this time, it has assisted approximately 70,000 trafficked persons. Its primary aims are to prevent trafficking in persons and to protect victims from the trade while offering them options of safe and sustainable reintegration and/or return to their home countries. While numbers of estimated victims of trafficking worldwide vary, they are reported as being in the millions and most importantly, they are constantly on the rise. Moreover, estimates often do not include individuals who are victims within the borders of their own countries. Trafficked persons are often victims to abuse such as rape, torture, debt bondage, unlawful confinement and threats against their family or other persons close to them, as well as other forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence.
- Countering Trafficking in Persons
(November 2015 – February 2017)
Donor: Government of the Federal Repblic of Germany
While the Government of Mauritania ratified the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and adopted an anti-trafficking legislation in 2003, vulnerable populations remain at an increased risk. This two-part project, implemented by IOM and funded by the Government of Germany, assists the Mauritanian government by increasing the awareness of vulnerable communities of the risks and recruitment tactics of traffickers. The project also aims at reinforcing the capacity of security and judiciary forces to effectively recognize, interdict and prosecute human trafficking and to offer meaningful assistance to victims of trafficking (VOTs).
Governments around the world realize the benefits that migrants bring to both origin and destination countries. IOM is at the forefront, helping governments draft beneficial policies and programs that highlight the financial and human resources emigrants and their descendants contribute to development of society.
- Mapping the Mauritanian Diaspora
(November 2015 – February 2017)
Donor: IOM Development Fund
Because there is no reliable data available to assess the influence of the Mauritanian diaspora, the Mauritanian government has requested the expertise of IOM in gathering detailed and reliable data on the Mauritanian diaspora in order to better understand its demographic profile and its willingness to provide investment capital toward the development of Mauritania. This project will initially be funded by the IOM Development Fund.
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Main text: May 2016
Facts and figures: February 2016