IOM Provides Key Insights into Smuggling, Trafficking and Exploitation of Migrants in Nouadhibou

Published Date: 
Fri, 07/30/2021 - 21:00

Nouakchott (Mauritania) - Due to its geographical position, Mauritania is both a country of destination and transit for many migrants seeking to reach Europe or North Africa. 

The latest figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) collected in 2019 show 116,000 migrants living in Mauritania, which represented one out of every 39 individuals.

Most of them arrived through regular paths and followed standard visa and integration procedures in the country. Others entered the country through irregular channels. Such irregular migration, often facilitated by groups of smugglers, exposes migrants, including women and children, to exploitation risks. In some cases, this exploitation turns into trafficking. 

During the 2019-20 exercise, IOM developed its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in Nouadhibou as part of a survey on trafficking, the results of which were presented in a report published in April 2021. 

Nouadhibou is located in the far north of the country, and its strategic position and important port activities make it a very attractive city for both nationals and foreigners. According to 26% of the migrant community representatives interviewed, the majority of those wishing to travel to Nouadhibou is assisted by either a smuggler or an intermediary. 

The city is also the main point of disembarkation for wrecked or intercepted boats on the migration route from West Africa to the Canary Islands. For 26% of community representatives, this situation is worse for trips from the city as a departure point, with 72% of migrants consenting to a transaction with a smuggler. 

Half of the community representatives also believe that migrants residing in Nouadhibou who plan to continue their journey intend to use the land route, while almost a third (31%) highlight their intention to use the sea route. 

“Situations of exploitation, trafficking and smuggling are multifaceted and cross-cutting for all nationalities,” said Nicolas Hochart, project manager at IOM in Mauritania. 

Some social groups become “invisibilised” (nonexistent in society), such as women and girls who are often exploited for domestic work, as well as English-speaking communities for whom integration is more difficult due to language barriers. 

Other populations, such as the Malian Tuaregs, do not easily have access to international organisations and civil society, facing barriers to integration due to language and cultural differences. Statistically less numerous, they face significant and specific protection risks. In addition, there is often a lack of understanding of exploitation issues and difficulties in identifying victims. 

Mauritania has adopted concrete measures to address this scourge. In 2020, IOM’s long-standing support to combat trafficking in persons resulted in the official publication on 6 August 2020 of two revised laws on combating trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling. 

To improve access to justice for survivors of trafficking and strengthen criminal justice institutions in Mauritania, IOM seeks to improve the operational capacities of law enforcement, local government and non-governmental actors in the fight against trafficking in persons. This is to protect victims of trafficking, both in Nouakchott and in the rest of the country, including Nouadhibou.

In recent years, IOM has forged various partnerships with government agencies, NGOs and other stakeholders to successfully implement its counter-trafficking activities in Mauritania and the region. As part of these efforts, IOM will ensure that these partnerships are strengthened and link with their services through referral networks. 

For more information, please contact Nicolas Hochart, email:, Tel: +222 28 88 89 60 and Lisa Godde, email:, Tel: +222 28 88 89 33.