Thousands of migrants flock to Mauritania for EU journey by sea


Mauritania’s second largest city, Nouadhibou, is home to 120,000 people, but more than a quarter of these inhabitants are migrants. Recent data generated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed that 32,000 migrants currently live in the city, about three quarters of them arriving from Mauritania’s neighbours, Senegal and Mali.

According to the IOM survey, 70% of these migrants say their primary need is to find a stable job, and to have access to health care and housing.

But for some those may be temporary needs. Increasingly migrants are arriving with plans to leave Mauritania by sea, headed due west into the Canary Islands archipelago –part of Spain, therefore the European Union. In the first month of 2020, 23 boats carrying 708 people arrived in the Canary Islands, far below the peak recorded in 2006, when 31,678 people reached its shores.

Following a shipwreck off the coast of Mauritania in December 2019, which claimed 62 lives, the need to strengthen the preparedness and predictability of rescue operations at sea along one of the main migratory routes arose.

“Interceptions and search and rescue operations on the Western Mediterranean route are on the rise so we need to ensure that migrants and refugees rescued at sea are disembarked through predictable mechanisms and that survivors receive immediate protection and assistance,” said Laura Lungarotti, IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission.

“Only coordinated efforts, such as those already in place with the Mauritanian authorities, can ensure that the most vulnerable are brought to safety in a timely manner.”

To increase their presence and strengthen cooperation with the authorities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) inaugurated this week (11/2) a new joint office in Nouadhibou.

In Nouadhibou, IOM provides a wide range of protection and assistance services to vulnerable migrants, such as emergency food assistance, access to healthcare, child-tailored protection services, as well as assisted voluntary return and reintegration options.

IOM’s efforts in the Sahara region address these migration-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  SDG 10.7: Facilitating orderly, safe and regular migration and mobility; and SDG 17.18, increasing significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable migration data. (Source: IOM)