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Country Profile

Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons – Smuggling of Migrants

The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Humanitarian Action and Relations with Civil Society (CDHARHSC - Commissariat aux Droits de l’Homme, à l’Action Humanitaire et aux Relations avec la Société Civile) drafted in 2019-20 a National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (NAPLTP 2020-2022), was adopted in 23rd of March 2020 by the Cabinet. The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Humanitarian Action and Relations with Civil Society (CDHARHSC) is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the National action Plan.

The Action Plan is composed of nine objectives.

  • Prevention and sensitization

  • Research and documentation of the phenomenon of trafficking in persons

  • Enhancing the capacity of stakeholders

  • Improvement of the legal framework

  • Strengthening prosecutions

  • Protection of trafficking survivors and witnesses

  • Providing Social reintegration and voluntary return assistance to trafficking survivors.

  • The national coordination of trafficking in persons

  • Regional and international cooperation to combat trafficking in persons

Related Action Plans

National Action Plan to Eliminate Child Labor (2015–2020): Aims to eliminate the worst forms of child labor by strengthening child labor laws, training relevant government officials, implementing awareness-raising campaigns, and mobilizing funds for social programs to withdraw children from child labor. Overseen by the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Modernization of the Administration (Ministère de la Fonction Publique, du Travail et de la Modernisation de l’Administration)

Institutional Framework

National Structures Responsible for Identifying Traffickers and Victims of Trafficking (VOT)

Identification is generally done by actors such as:

  • The Ministry of Social Affairs, Children, and the Family (MASEF)

  • Police agencies (National Police and Gendarmerie, specialized Child Police Brigade)

  • Labour inspectors

  • Civil society, social workers, NGOs, and international organizations

National Structures Responsible for Border Management

The Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST), a department within the Directorate General for National Security (DGSN) and under the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization, is specifically in charge of border control and security. The DST is made up of many units involved in migration management such as: airport police posts, border control posts, mobile units and specialized police.

Under the Ministry of Defense, the National Gendarmerie is also in charge of certain border posts.

The National Agency for the Population Registry and Secure Documents (ANRPTS, Agence Nationale du Registre des Populations et des Titres Sécurisés), is in charge of civil registration, including national identity cards, civil status documents, passports and visas at ports of entry.

National Structures Addressing Smuggling of Migrants

  • Ministry of Justice

  • Coast Guard (Under the Ministry of Maritime of fisheries and the maritime economy)

  • The General Directorate of National Security (DGSN - Direction Générale de la Sûreté Nationale)

  • Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST)

  • The National Gendarmerie

  • International organizations, INGOs and national civil society, especially in the context of humanitarian responses post disembarkations of smuggled migrants in the context of maritime migration.

National Coordinating Bodies

There is no single coordination committee yet in operation, and no single government agency is at the moment responsible for leading national anti-trafficking efforts.

The new trafficking law adopted in 2020 foresees the establishment of a national body to combat TIP and SOM which would hold a key role in both coordination of anti-TIP and anti SOM actions in future, as well as protection of smuggled migrants and victims of trafficking. This is referred to as the National Instance for the fight against human trafficking and smuggling of Migrants (Instance National de lutte contre la traite des personnes et le trafic illicite de migrants) and it will be created by a decree foreseen in the newly published 2020 TIP law. This decree must define the composition, functions and modus operandi of the coordination body.


National Council for Child Protection: Established in 2019, aims to develop and implement policies and programs to eradicate all forms of violence against children, including child labor. Chaired by the Prime Minister’s adviser on social affairs and includes stakeholders in children’s affairs. The Ministry of Labor does not participate in the activities of the National Child Protection Council.


General Information

Mauritania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and multiple types of trafficking, including for domestic, and labour exploitation. Forced begging and domestic servitude, as well as labour exploitation are present among both Mauritanian and migrant communities. Mauritanians may also encounter exploitative situations abroad, for example in domestic labour settings in Gulf States. Mauritania is committed to addressing the consequences of the outlawed practice of hereditary slavery, which is a form of trafficking, especially with regards to socioeconomic inequalities.

Main Trends and Figures

IOM Mauritania is conducting an exploratory study into trends relating to trafficking, smuggling and exploitation among migrants in the city of Nouadhibou, which will be published in late 2020 and made available at IOM DTM Mauritania portal. The lack of data is a key obstacle in shaping policy and response to trafficking, despite the major recent legislative reform aimed at bringing Mauritania’s legislation in line with the Palermo Protocol, adopted by Parliament in July 2020 and published in August 2020.

In 2019, the Government investigated at least one case of trafficking, prosecuted three alleged traffickers, and convicted five traffickers. In the US 2020 JTIP Report, an NGO reported identifying 2,704 child forced begging victims and 364 child sex trafficking and domestic servitude victims in 2019.

Since 2017, IOM has assisted nearly 300 survivors of trafficking with their reintegration in Mauritania. In 2019, IOM assisted 60 survivors of trafficking and persons at-risk. This included unaccompanied child migrant survivors. It also included four trafficking survivors who were assisted with a request for voluntary return and reintegration from Mauritania to a country of origin, as well as 54 returning Mauritanian survivors, who were assisted with reintegration in Mauritania. The reintegration program was achieved through a partnership with the National Agency for the Promotion of Youth Employment (ANAPEJ).

Mauritania is both an important destination and transit country, with around a third of migrants recently surveyed intending to stay in country, whilst another third wishes to move on, either back to the country of origin or onwards to Morocco, or Europe. A further third is uncertain of their next steps. Journeys to Mauritania from the sub-region are typically regular, given bilateral agreements between countries allowing for the entry of their nationals into Mauritania, however after three months in country, regularization procedures must be followed, yet these are often unattainable, leaving many in an irregular situation. With regards to onwards movements from Mauritania, the degree of facilitation of irregular journeys is thought to be higher, with testimonies and casework indicating migrant smuggling activity in Nouadhibou10. Whilst smuggling and trafficking are sometimes linked, for example when smugglers exploit their migrant clients, these are two separate crimes. Alongside legal reform of the trafficking law, updates to the smuggling law were also adopted in July 2020 with IOM’s support and promulgated in August 2020.


Existing Mechanisms

Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrant (SOM) Hotlines

TIP/SOM IOM hotline (stranded  migrants)- Not available*

Others (Children protection/ assistance)- Not available

*The Government is intending to put in place a Hotline (Numéro Vert) as part of the new Action Plan  (PANLTP). Objective 7.  

NB. IOM’s protection hotlines are also able to receive referrals of survivors of trafficking and smuggled  migrants.

National Referral Mechanism and/or Standard Operating Procedures TIP

  • The Government does not have at the moment formal measures to identify trafficking survivors or refer them to care, but frontline actors use ad-hoc referral channels, including in the context of the “table de coordination sur la migration mixte” in Nouadhibou, under the auspices of MASEF and co-facilitated by IOM and UNHCR.

  • The new National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (NAPLTP 2020-2022), includes measures to enhance identification and refers victims to care and the establishment of a national referral mechanism. It should involve, according to the Plan, the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Humanitarian Action and Relations with Civil Society (CDHARHSC), the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), the Ministry of Health, Police and civil society organizations.

Measures to Detect Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) Cases along the Borders

  • IOM has provided training on trafficking and smuggling to border agents across the country under the European Union Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) program and included anti-smuggling and trafficking measures in a manual for border guards in Arabic and French. A contingent of trainers of trainers from the police force based at the national police academy are also able to deliver trainings on the trafficking and smuggling laws.

Law Enforcement Agencies Responsible for Investigating Cases of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrant (SOM)TIP

The TIP and SOM investigations are done by various law enforcement actors according to their mandate.

  • The General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) (Direction Générale de la Sûreté Nationale) is the Directorate in charge of Mauritania’s police force. It is placed under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization. The DGSN has various directorates and specialized units, and is responsible for public security, judicial police, internal and external security and combatting terrorism.

  • Within the DGSN and therefore also under the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization, the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST), as well as other responsibilities is in charge of border control and security. The DST investigates cases through their units such as: airport police posts, border control posts, mobile units and police specialized in intelligence and issues relating to foreign nationals.

  • Under the Ministry of Defense, The Central Bureau of Research (BCR in French) of the National Gendarmerie carry out criminal investigations and the National Gendarmerie is in charge of ten border posts.

  • Ministry of Labor’s Directorate of Labor and Inspection: Enforces labor laws and investigates Labor Code infractions, including violations related to minimum wage and hazardous work

  • Ministry of the Interior’s Special Police Brigade for Children: deals with crimes against or involving children, including human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.

  • National Commission for Human Rights and Humanitarian Action and Relations with Civil Society (CDHARHSC): Receives human rights complaints, and conducts investigations on human rights violations, including the worst forms of child labor.

Identity and Travel Documentation/Investigation and Forensic Lab

  • Document Fraud Office and the Risk Analysis Cell

  • The General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) (Direction Générale de la Sureté Nationale) has a National Police Scientific Laboratory that assists investigators.

  • National Agency for the Population Register and secure documents (ANRPTS) (Agence nationale du registre des populations et des titres sécurisés) is in charge of civil registration and issuance of ID cards, birth and marriage certificate and passports. The ANRPTS has various office across the country that can proceed with verification and confirmation of documents.

  • The Directorate for Mauritanians Abroad and Consular Affairs within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Mauritanians Abroad is responsible for the documentation of and providing consular assistance to Mauritanians abroad.

Technical Working Groups (TWG)

There are no TWG specifically responsible for addressing TIP and SOM.

With IOM and UNHCR’s facilitation, a coordination platform on mixed migration exists in Nouadhibou, under the auspices of the MASEF. Local civil society and authorities participate, and migration related opportunities and challenges are discussed, with coordination around referral of migrants in vulnerable situations, including smuggled and trafficked persons.

At national and Nouadhibou level, a working group facilitated by IOM on disembarkations, involving all relevant authorities and certain civil society representatives, also touches upon issues of smuggling and trafficking.

Agency Responsible for Data Collection and Processing

The collection of data on trafficking and smuggling is conducted by various entities but it is limited and not yet centralized.

The Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST), which operates under the General Directorate for National Security, and the National Agency for the Population Register and Secure Documents, collect data on persons entering or exiting the country for administrative purposes. This data is not published but is available on demand. However, no data on smuggling or trafficking in these contexts is collected.

The Government envisaged establishing a database to collect data on TIP survivors as part of the Action Plan (Objective 7) which would involve the Ministry of Justice, the CDHAHRSC, the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization (MIDEC) and the MASEF.

Since 2018, IOM has collected data through its Displacement Tracking Matrix, in partnership with Mauritanian authorities. The data collection includes, amongst others, information on migrants’ access to the labour market (in Nouadhibou and Nouakchott), individual documentation (the lack of which is a potential risk-factor for exploitation), and challenges encountered en route or experienced in Mauritania (including proxy factors for smuggling and trafficking). IOM is currently working on a study on TIP and SOM in Nouadhibou which will available late 2020.

Protection and Assistance to Victims of Trafficking Agencies

Competent Authority and Mechanism to Identify Victims of Trafficking

At the moment there is no specific measure used to officially recognize a person as a survivor of trafficking.

Assistance Services and Contacts

Key protection and assistance systems for survivors of trafficking in Mauritania, such as a national referral mechanism, do not yet exist. There are no official measures to identify victims at their workplaces and, when they are identified, there are no state-provided assistance measures such as psychological support.

The new 2020 TIP law, establishes various protection mechanisms, rights and other forms of assistance to TIP survivors, such as free healthcare, social assistance, legal aid including information provision on procedures for survivors, assisted voluntary return, etc. However, the provision of these services may fall to civil society and international agencies, whose collaboration is anticipated by the law.

In addition, the new National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (NAPLTP 2020- 2022) includes the elaboration of an illustrated booklet on the rights of victims and witnesses of trafficking (in all national languages of countries of the sub-region) and updating of existing referral frameworks.

Cross-Border Cooperation

International Cooperation Agreements - Cross Border and Extradition Treaties


  • United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocols ratified by Mauritania in 2005.

  • The Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW) ratified on January 22, 2007. (English) (French)

  • C143 - Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143). This ILO Convention was ratified by Mauritania in 2019 and entered into force in 2020.

  • Mauritania participates in the Migration Dialogue for West Africa (MIDWA), facilitated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The MIDWA aims to encourage Member States “to discuss in a regional context common migration issues and concerns.” Mauritania also participated in all regional consultations related to the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration and adopted the Global Compact in December 2018.

  • On 5 May 2017, Mauritania signed an association agreement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on strengthened partnerships in several areas of common interest, such as encouraging the free movement of persons.

  • Mauritania is also a Member State of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) (English) (French) which encourages the movement of people and goods between Mauritania and other member States.

  • Based in Nouakchott, with three sub-offices – in Nouadhibou, Bassikounou and Selibaby – IOM Mauritania works in close collaboration with the Mauritanian Government and partners to strengthen the national migration governance capacities and support migrants and host communities in the country. The mission is structured around three main areas of interventions: migration governance (institutional frameworks, data, integrated border management), protection (counter-trafficking, child protection and direct assistance) and development.

  • UNHCR works closely with the Mauritanian authorities to enhance the protection of refugees and stateless and at-risk persons in Mauritania, improving access to documentation, birth registration, economic opportunities, and basic services such as health and education. UNHCR works under the umbrella of the United Nations Sustainable Development Partnership Framework (CPDD). In March 2019, in collaboration with the National Agency for Civil Registration (ANRPTS) of Mauritania, UNHCR launched the out-of-camp registration exercise for Malian refugees living outside Mbera camp. See link for UNHCR activities and key figures in Mauritania.

  • UNODC is implementing the SAHEL program that was developed within the framework of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel 2014-2019, launched by the United Nations Secretary-General in June 2013. The Strategy focuses on three main objectives: to obtain more inclusive and effective governance, build capacities to counter cross-border threats and promote the resilience of the Sahelian communities. The Sahel region covers Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. Links are established with other countries in the region, such as Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, as appropriate and necessary. The UNODC Sahel Program supports the development of accessible, efficient and accountable criminal justice systems designed to effectively combat drug trafficking, other forms of illicit trafficking including of people, organiseorganised crime, terrorism and corruption in the region. 


  • Mauritania has concluded several formal and informal agreements with neighboring countries and destination countries such as the United Arab Emirates, France and the Kingdom of Spain on the management of migratory flows and reentry of irregular migrants (including third country nationals, in the case of the Mauritania – Spain reentry agreement).

  • Mauritania is no longer a member of ECOWAS, but its new association agreement with this community of mostly neighboring and bordering states will facilitate cooperation in particular in the field of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters (collection of testimonies or depositions, delivery of court documents, searches and seizures, and confiscations of the proceeds of criminal activities.

  • Mauritania has other forms of cooperation in the field of investigations carried out in other territories, in particular with Mali, Senegal and Guinea.

Extradition agreements: Mauritania has signed a number of agreements to facilitate extradition and strengthen its effectiveness, including agreements with France (Antananarivo Convention - 1961), Mali (1963), Tunisia (1965), Algeria (1969), Morocco (1972), Spain (2006) and Sudan (2009).

Mauritania has also signed the General Convention on Judicial Cooperation (1961), the Riyadh Agreement (1983) and the Arab Maghreb Union Agreement on Legal and Judicial Cooperation (1993). In addition, Mauritania is a member of the Sahel States network for judicial cooperation and extradition, the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for West Africa (ARIN-WA) and the Network of West African Central Authorities and Prosecutors against OrganiseOrganised Crime (WACAP)

Additional International Instruments

  • The Sahelian Judicial Cooperation Platform (PCJS): Within the Sahel zone, arrangements between states now authorize the security and defense forces of one state to prosecute criminals on the territory of another. The PCJS Secretariat is hosted by the UNODC West Africa regional office (English) (French)

  • EUCAP Sahel: in February 2019, the EU strengthened its support to G5 Sahel countries in the fight against terrorism, organiseorganised crime and any other threat to security and peace. The EU wants to reinforce its regional approach in the Sahel with the aim of supporting cross-border cooperation, regional cooperation structures, and, in this context, of enhancing national capacities of the G5 Sahel countries. Stability in the Sahel region is also key for European security. The regional coordination cell will be renamed regional advisory and coordination cell (RACC) and will be reinforced. Its command and control structure was moved from Bamako to Nouakchott and its network of CSDP security and defence experts, embedded within EU delegations in the five countries, has been enlarged. The RACC will support, through strategic advice, the G5 Sahel structures and countries, in synergy with Commission-funded programs and in an integrated approach perspective. The objective of the cell’s activities will be to strengthen the G5 Sahel regional and, where appropriate, national capacities, in particular to support the operationalization of the G5 Sahel joint force military and police components, with the aim of facilitating and improving regional cross-border cooperation in the field of security and defence. More information: (English) (French)

Useful Reports:

  • IOM and Mauritanian Ministry of Justice: 2019, Regional Comparative Study of legislation on trafficking in persons: Burkina Faso, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, Tunisia. French and Arabic (in same document).

  • See other IOM reports and publications related to Mauritania (English) (French). In addition, IOM is working on a TIP and SOM study that will soon be available.

  • In January 2019: Mauritania Hosts a Regional Conference on Counter Trafficking in Persons in West Africa and the Arab World. (English). The conference, which brought together more than 50 participants from the Mauritanian Judiciary and Civil Society, United Nations agencies (UNODC, UNICEF, UNHCR) as well as key actors from Egypt, Mali, Morocco, Niger and Senegal, aimed to exchange good practices and experiences in the fight against trafficking in the West African Region and the Arab World.

  • EU Regional Development and Protection Program for North Africa (RDPP NA) Mauritania snapshot

Relevant National Legislation and Policies

Entry Requirements

All 15 ECOWAS member states: (with valid passport) Visa-exempted (ID cards accepted for a stay up to 90 days): for Côte D’Ivoire, Gambia, Mali, and Senegal

Visa-exempted (Only passport accepted, for a stay up to 90 days): Liberia and Togo

Visa is required (with valid passport only): for Benin, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone

Other visa-exempted (Only passport accepted for a stay up to 90 days): Algeria, Libya, Syria and all G5 Sahel States not covered by ECOWAS measures – Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger

Other visa-required: all European Union member states, UK; those countries that are not exempted can obtain a 90 days visa on arrival* at Nouakchott International Airport

(*Changes may apply during COVID 19). More information on visa and entry requirements: English / French)

National Legislation

To respect its international and regional commitments, Mauritania has taken legal and institutional measures to combat trafficking in persons:

  • 2015 Anti-Slavery Law (available in French). It replaces law n° 2007-048 of September 3, 2007 criminalizing slavery and suppressing slavery practices in Mauritania. The 2015 law criminalized hereditary slavery and prescribed stringent penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 250,000 to five million MRU ($6,760-$135,140).

  • Penal Protection Code for Children, Article 54 - prohibits child trafficking; Article 26 prohibits sexual exploitation of children; Article 43 prohibits forced begging of children; Article 43 prohibits military recruitment of children into armies or armed groups.

Recent Modifications and New Decrees

  • 2020, Human trafficking and migrant smuggling. On 7th July 2020, the National Assembly adopted a new law against trafficking in persons and endorsed the reform of the 2010 law against the smuggling of migrants. These instruments were published in the Official Gazette of 30 August 2020. They suppress and punish the perpetrators of these crimes and provide better protection and assistance to survivors of trafficking and smuggled migrants. This new trafficking law complies with international commitments including the Palermo protocol ratified in 2005 by Mauritania. The smuggling law is also compliant with the relevant protocol to the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime. The penalties for trafficking in persons offences are harmonized with those provided for in the Act criminalizing slavery.

Existing Policies

  • In 2010, in partnership with the European Union (EU) and the IOM, the Government of Mauritania drafted a National Migration Strategy (French only) that includes a well‐defined action plan. However, that strategy was only partially implemented, and a revision of the action plan is in progress. IOM is supporting Government of Mauritania in updating its migration strategy in 2020, which would include measures relating to combatting trafficking. This work is led by the MIDEC (Ministry of Interior)

  • In 2020, the Cabinet approved a 2020-2022 National Action Plan Against Trafficking in Persons, detailed below

  • Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Sustainable Development (2016–2030); aims to reduce poverty, promote sustainable development, and increase access to fundamental social services. Overseen by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Promotion of Productive Sectors (Ministère des Affaires Économiques et de la Promotion des Secteurs Productifs), in relation to trafficking, this strategy aims to increase birth registration and access to compulsory education, strengthen social protection systems for children, and support efforts to combat the aftermath of hereditary slavery.

Legal Instruments for Assistance and Compensation to Victims of Trafficking

The abovementioned action plan aims to develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Lawyers Order (ONA) on legal aid (counseling and guidance) to support before and during court hearings. The new law against trafficking in persons (Chapter V – Protection and Assistance mechanisms) envisages mechanisms for protection and assistance for trafficking survivors, their families, witnesses and even extended to the involved court officials, undercover agents and whistleblowers whenever it will be necessary.

11 2020 law on trafficking, Chapter V-Protection and Assistance mechanisms, p 613)

These measures include:

Art 56: Recognition of the status of victim of trafficking (entailing exemption from prosecution relating to acts that the victim would have been forced or coerced to commit) as well their right to reparation.

Art 67: Informing TIP survivors of their rights, specifically as regards regularization of their administrative situation.

Art 68: Legal aid can be granted to victims of trafficking in order to initiate civil and criminal proceedings. The Court can assist victims in the composition of their documentation in view to obtain legal aid and in accordance with established procedures.

Art 72: Recovery and reflection period: if requested, it is granted to the foreigner presumed victim of trafficking the right to recovery and reflection for a period up to 6 months and can be renewed once for the same period. The person cannot be repatriated during this period.

Art 70: Victims of trafficking can claim and obtaining appropriate compensation and to become a civil party during the trial. The court can award compensation to the victim. Judicial authorities may order, giving reasons for their decision, property to be confiscated, or its corresponding value to be used for the reparation and protection of victims of trafficking. The return of the survivors to their country of origin does not prejudice their right to compensation.

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