Mauritania hosts over 2,000 urban refugees and asylum seekers and almost 56,000 Malian refugees in and around Mbera camp established in 2012 in the arid south-eastern region close to the Malian border.
Despite the conclusion of a peace agreement in 2015, large-scale returns of Malian refugees are not expected due to persistent violence in northern Mali. In October alone, 167 new arrivals were registered in Mbera camp.
In the context of this protracted situation, UNHCR is engaging with several actors to strengthen the humanitarian development nexus, in order to reduce refugees’ needs, risks and vulnerabilities.
In Mauritania, UNHCR provides protection and assistance to 55,886 Malian refugees in and around Mbera camp in south-eastern Mauritania and to 1,403 refugees and 1,101 asylum-seekers in the urban areas of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou (mainly from the Central African Republic, Syria and Côte d’Ivoire), in a context of mixed movements.
UNHCR works closely with the Mauritanian authorities towards the development and implementation of a national asylum system. Pending the adoption of the asylum law, UNHCR supports the authorities to enhance refugee protection in Mauritania improving access to documentation, birth registration, economic opportunities, and basic services such as health and education.
Since 2012, UNHCR has led the humanitarian response for Malian refugees in the Hodh Echarghi region, in collaboration with the Mauritanian Government and other UN agencies, national and international NGOs. Mauritania continues to keep its borders open to new influxes. Despite the conclusion of a peace agreement in Mali in June 2015, large-scale returns of refugees are not yet expected due to the prevailing security situation in northern Mali. In June 2016, Mauritania, Mali and UNHCR concluded a Tripartite Agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Malian refugees. This agreement provides a framework to facilitate voluntary return, when the conditions in Mali allow. In the meantime, it reaffirms the commitment of Mauritania and Mali to protect refugees. At present, UNHCR considers that the conditions in Mali are not conducive to promote the return of refugees. However,
UNHCR may facilitate voluntary return upon request and on an individual case basis.