Mauritania is signatory of the 1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol as well as of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. Draft legislation on asylum remains pending. Despite this, national authorities continued to demonstrate willingness to maintain a relatively open-door policy, balanced with security and public health imperatives due to Covid-19 pandemic.
UNHCR’s objectives and interventions are aligned with the UNHCR Global Strategic Priorities 2017-2021 and the Global Compact on Refugees, thus focusing not only on core protection and response priorities, but also on other ones aiming at securing solutions for persons of concern.
Objective 1: Protect and Respond
A robust contingency plan in the event of a sudden arrival of refugees Given the deteriorating security situation in Mali, the Government, UNHCR and humanitarian agencies based in Bassikounou regularly review their joint contingency planning for the Moughataa of Bassikounou and Mbera Camp, which during 2020 could respond to a sudden influx of 10,000 refugees.
Covid-19 emergency response An emergency response has been activated to respond to the socioeconomic impact of Covid-19 on both local and refugee populations in Mbera camp and urban areas. Basic services community empowerment and self-reliance support were provided in Bassikounou to respond to the higher degree of extreme poverty, shortage of basic services and very limited sources of income caused by the floods and the covid-19 pandemic.
Predictable access to humanitarian assistance, targeted based on capacities and vulnerabilities Following the Refugee Coordination Model, UNHCR has coordinated all humanitarian activities in Mbera Camp and for refugees living in the department of Bassikounou and ensured camp management and the provision of basic services to persons of concern. UNHCR and WFP provided to 3,276 new camp arrivals food assistance and non-food items as well as cash for hygienic kits and other items during the reporting period. They were served by UNHCR with Core Relief Items (CRI), shelter materials and were included in the general camp monthly food and laundry soap distributions in response to Covid-19 prevention. WFP’s monthly food distributions continued not to be able to cover the recommended standard of 2,100 kcal/person/day, but instead, contribute to 1,503 Kcal/person/day delivered roughly 65% in cash and 35% in food. Better-off refugee population categories who are not included in the WFP’s assistance scheme, and who were impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak have been assisted by UNHCR with one-off cash assistance. In 2020, nutrition services were kept running despite of the Covid-19 outbreak. Community-based nutrition activities were conducted remotely wherever possible. Therapeutic and supplementary feeding programs have continued without interruption. Nutrition activities continued in the four health structures throughout the camp including the 4 CRENAS and 1 CRENI. Overall, 412 children were admitted to the CRENAS and CRENI during year 2020.
Basic needs in the camp were addressed through cash-based interventions (CBI) and combined with special donations, such as the 119,337 pieces of secondhand clothes from UNIQLO, distributed to vulnerable refugees and children at school (to support school retention rates).
Advocacy for access to territory and international protection for refugees Thanks to the close collaboration with public authorities and its partners, access to territory, asylum procedures and prevention of refoulement have been ensured throughout 2020. This was highly important especially during Covid-19 related closure of borders and inland restriction of movement. In urban areas, UNHCR and its partner ensured a more comprehensive legal aid to its persons of concern, by including services such as, monitoring in detention, representation before the court, suspension of refoulement decisions, counselling on labor law, family law, etc.
Working towards the adoption of asylum legislation UNHCR continues its advocacy for a general review of the national legislation on asylum to ensure more favorable protection to persons of concern. During 2020, UNHCR led three workshops in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou to ensure national authorities have knowledge and respect the international protection standards.
Registration and refugee status determination systems with integrity, including in mixed movement contexts UNHCR in Mauritania had registered a total of 69,598 persons of concern as of end 2020. 2,348 new individuals, predominantly of Malian origin, were registered and documented in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, thus increasing the urban refugee population by 55%. As of end 2020, the total urban population counted 5,735 persons or 2,759 households representing altogether more than 40 nationalities with rich cultural and different socio-economic backgrounds. This population is comprised of 39% children, 59% adults and 2% older people.