Countering Irregular Migration
Judges and state prosecutors from across Mauritania have recognised
the need for a change in legislation in order for them to
successfully prosecute migrant smugglers following a week-long
gathering in Nouakchott on how to counter irregular transit
migration from Sub-Saharan Africa to the European Union.
The gathering, which brought together senior Mauritanian legal
officials, experts from IOM and the French government, focused on
adapting penal legislation in order to prosecute human smugglers in
compliance with international legal standards.
According to participating Mauritanian state prosecutors, the only
existing legislation they have to work with when trying to
prosecute human smugglers were articles relating to fraud and the
use of forgery as Mauritanian law does not currently define human
smuggling as an offence.
At the workshop, jointly organized by the Ministry of Justice, IOM
and the cooperation service of the French police (SCTIP),
participants recognized the importance of developing a legal
framework through the implementation of the UN’s Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols to which
Mauritania adhered to in 2005.
The use of Mauritania as a transit country for irregular migration
to Spain’s Canary Islands, which last year saw more than
30,000 irregular migrants arrive on their shores from West Africa,
has highlighted the inadequacies of existing Mauritanian
legislation on migration.
Mauritania, along with Senegal, Gambia and other West African
countries have seen an increase in irregular transit migration
through their borders following the closure of traditional routes
for irregular migration through Morocco to Spain. Experts believe
that several thousand migrants did not survive the more than 1000
km journey in fishing boats across the Atlantic Ocean in 2006.
The participants also expressed the view that Mauritania needed a
national migration policy outlining how the country intended to
manage the foreign population on its territory and the movement of
people through its borders.
IOM implements its project in close cooperation with Mauritanian
government counterparts and SCTIP and also coordinates with
UNHCR and the Spanish foundation FIIAPP, the two
other organisations that have been asked by the European
Commission to assist Mauritania in improving migration management.
IOM and SCTIP have also just held a one week training course on the
detection of fraudulent travel documents at the national police
school for policemen and officers working at border points.
As well as training government officials, IOM is also taking other
measures to strengthen border management including the upgrading of
technical infrastructure at major border points and improving the
existing database of travellers entering and leaving the
In order to respond to the humanitarian needs of migrants stranded
in Mauritania, usually without money or papers, IOM is also
planning to offer stranded migrants in difficult situations the
possibility of returning home on a voluntary basis.
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