Mauritania Prepares to Sign Agreement with EU to Combat Illegal Immigration

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The issue was the subject of discussion during a cabinet meeting in Nouakchott this Wednesday. Details of the agreement have leaked to the press, sparking controversy regarding the reception of migrants in the country. The President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, visited Nouakchott alongside the Spanish Prime Minister on February 8th and is scheduled to return on March 7th for the agreement’s signing.

For several months, the European Union has been working to establish an “enhanced partnership” with Mauritania to combat irregular immigration. The agreement includes provisions for the return of intercepted migrants at sea to Mauritania, where they will be welcomed and assisted.

Youth assistance in Mauritania is also outlined in the agreement, along with support to enhance security at the border with Mali. This entails training border guards and counterterrorism efforts. Other investments mentioned include transitioning to green energy.

In exchange, Nouakchott will receive a funding package of 522 million euros, with 210 million euros allocated by year-end. 40 million euros will be dedicated to security measures.

Leaks about the agreement’s contents have sparked controversy and concerns among Mauritanian opposition groups and civil society NGOs. They have called on the government to provide clarity regarding its commitments.

Mohamad Lamine Chouaib, responsible for political affairs at the National Rally for Reform and Development (Tawassul), the main opposition party, explains, “We have urged the government to be transparent with the population, to provide clear and detailed information about the agreement and Mauritania’s obligations within it. Especially concerning the resettlement of illegal immigrants in Mauritania who are not authorized to enter Europe. This point raises many concerns. We are a country with limited resources and services. Already under multiple pressures, we cannot bear another burden.” The opposition indicates a desire to be consulted on this matter. “There must be a consensus around this text before its signing, otherwise it risks affecting the country’s political, security, and social situation,” warns the opponent.

The Ministry of Interior attempted to reassure by denying, in a statement on Sunday, any intention to host migrants seeking to reach Europe. The proposed document is still under review to make it “more balanced” and serve “the interests of both parties,” the statement explained.

Mauritania has become a major transit country, via the Atlantic, for migrants seeking to reach Europe. The city of Nouadhibou, located on the ocean’s edge in the north of the country, is the main departure point. According to Spanish authorities, in January 2024, out of ten boats that reached the Canary Islands, eight departed from Mauritania.


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