Promoting the Best Interests of the child, a Priority for IOM Mauritania in the Context of COVID-19
Nouakchott (Mauritania) – Every year, a significant number of unaccompanied and separated children from the subregion travel to Mauritania to work as domestic servants or study in traditional Koranic schools, called mahadras. Most of these children are from Senegal, Mali, Guinea, The Gambia, and Sierra Leone.
In 2020 and 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) supported the Centres for the Protection and Social Integration of Children (CPISE) to meet the needs of migrant children and ensure their inclusion in the national protection system.
IOM has improved the care and protection mechanism for unaccompanied and separated migrant children by strengthening the capacities of strategic care institutions under the Ministry of Social Action, Children and the Family (MASEF), such as regional directorates, Centres for the Protection and Social Integration of Children (CPISE) and civil society organizations (CSOs).
The Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs) for Best Interests Determination (BID) of Children on the Move in Mauritania, developed jointly by MASEF, protection actors, UNHCR and IOM, have been validated. These procedures improve the identification of solutions in the best interests of the child through a system of expert panels coordinated by IOM in the case of migrant children.
Additional training and a regional meeting are planned in the second half of 2021 to further promote BID procedures. The support provided allowed children in vulnerable situations to receive emergency shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the reopening of four CPISE centres closed due to the pandemic.
In 2020, personal protective equipment was distributed to the centres and an emergency protocol was developed and made available to manage the centres during the health crisis. Information technology (IT) equipment was also made available to CPISE staff to strengthen learning and a new approach to remote care provision for vulnerable children.
IOM also provided capacity-building for 34 CPISEs social workers on techniques for identifying and caring for unaccompanied and separated migrant children. IOM has also hired a consultant to assist social workers in their daily work.
Thanks to the various interventions carried out in the CPISE, 480 children have been accommodated, assisted, and protected through the centres since August 2020.
“This project has strengthened the awareness of the Mauritanian authorities about the importance of keeping the best interests of the child, including migrant children, at the centre of the State’s actions,” explains Laura Sisniega, Protection Officer at IOM Mauritania.
These activities were carried out within the framework of the Africa Regional Migration Program (ARMP) funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the US State Department.