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Migrants face illegal arrest in Mauritania

Men in Nouadhibou detention centre, Mauritania

Men in Nouadhibou detention centre, Mauritania

© Amnesty International

2 July 2008

Irregular migrants trying to reach Europe are being arrested, ill-treated and collectively expelled from Mauritania without opportunity to challenge the decision according to a new Amnesty International report.

Published on Tuesday 1 July the report, Mauritania: Nobody wants anything to do with us, arrests and collective expulsions of migrants denied entry into Europe, also says that sometimes migrants aren’t even sent back to their own home countries.

Since 2006, thousands of migrants accused of setting out from Mauritania with the intention of entering Europe via Spain’s Canary Islands, have been arrested.

Many of those people have been held in a detention centre at Nouadhibou in northern Mauritania. Some have been ill-treated by members of the Mauritanian security forces.

Nationals of West African countries say they have been arbitrarily arrested in the street or at home and accused, apparently without any evidence, of intending to travel to Spain.

According to the National Security Service, 3,257 people were held in the centre in 2007, all were then sent to Senegal and Mali, regardless of their nationality or country of origin. These people are left at the border, often without much food and with no means of transport.

Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher, said that “This policy of arrests and collective expulsions by the Mauritanian authorities is the result of intense pressure exerted on Mauritania by the European Union (EU), and Spain in particular, as they seek to involve certain African countries in their attempt to combat irregular migration to Europe.”

Amnesty International calls on the Mauritanian authorities to ensure that their security forces are abiding by international law.

The organization also calls on the EU and its member states, most notably Spain, to take responsibility for ensuring that migrants are treated according to international human rights standards.

“EU states are using countries such as Mauritania to manage the flow of migrants who attempt to reach Europe from their territory. They have become the de facto ‘policemen of Europe’,” said Salvatore Saguès.

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