U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Mauritania

Mauritania (Tier 2 Watch List)

Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Mauritanian boys called talibe are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging and by street gang leaders for forced stealing, begging, and selling drugs. Girls are trafficked internally for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Senegalese and Malian boys are trafficked to Mauritania for forced begging by religious teachers. Senegalese and Malian girls are trafficked to Mauritania for domestic servitude. Senegalese, Malian, Ghanaian, and Nigerian women and girls may be trafficked to Mauritania for sexual exploitation. Slavery-related practices, rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships, exist in isolated parts of the country. Reports during the year of large numbers of nationals from neighboring countries transported to Mauritania by boat en route to Spain appear to be cases of smuggling and illegal migration rather than trafficking.

The Government of Mauritania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, despite limited resources. Mauritania is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to eliminate trafficking over the past year. To strengthen its response to trafficking, Mauritania should apply its law against trafficking in persons, strengthen its anti-slavery law, and increase protection and awareness-raising efforts.


The Government of Mauritania demonstrated weak law enforcement efforts during the year. Mauritania prohibits all forms of trafficking through its 2003 Law Against Trafficking in Persons and slavery through its 1981 Abolition of Slavery Ordinance. The prescribed penalty of five to 10 years for all forms of trafficking is adequate and exceeds the nation's prescribed penalty for forcible sexual assault. The slavery ordinance, however, neither prescribes a penalty nor defines slavery. Mauritania failed to report any trafficking or slavery prosecutions or convictions during the year. Lacking exact data, Mauritania estimated that it investigated five cases of trafficking or slavery, most of which were reported to officials by civil society activists. In each case, authorities concluded that slavery did not exist, but failed to apply the trafficking statute. Reports indicate that some local officials may have covered up slavery cases by intimidating or providing clothing and other goods to individuals in servitude so they would testify to satisfactory living conditions. In response to the repatriation to Mauritania in 2006 of 21 children who had been trafficked to the United Arab Emirates as camel jockeys, the head prosecutor spoke at donor-organized public education sessions about penalties prescribed under Mauritanian law against traffickers. The government is in the process of establishing a children's police brigade to enforce a January 2006 ordinance against child prostitution and exploitative child labor.


Mauritania demonstrated modest efforts to protect trafficking and slavery victims during the reporting period. With financing from the African Development Bank, the government provided six months of literacy training for 5,000 women, most of them domestic servants of an ethnic group historically victimized by slavery. The government continued to contribute personnel and a building to a collaborative project with UNICEF and a private bank to provide micro-credit programs for domestic workers and former slaves. Mauritania continued to fund six centers in Nouakchott providing care for indigents, many of whom were talibe boys. The centers, however, are operating below capacity despite apparent need. The government also created a welcome center for 21 victims repatriated to Mauritania in 2006 after having been trafficked to the United Arab Emirates as camel jockeys. The government does not encourage victims to assist in trafficking or slavery investigations or prosecutions. The government does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. Victims are inappropriately incarcerated, fined or penalized for unlawful acts as a direct result of being trafficked. The government places children in jail for stealing or engaging in sexual activity (including for being raped), although many of them are likely trafficking victims.


The Government of Mauritania made limited efforts to raise awareness about trafficking and slavery during the reporting period. The inter-ministerial working group on trafficking adopted a national action plan against trafficking during the reporting period. In March 2006, the government held a "Day of Reflection" for development partners, the media, civil society and political parties to discuss strategies for eradicating the vestiges of slavery.


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