Mauritania a step closer to criminalising human trafficking & smuggling with UNODC technical support


NOUAKCHOTT   For decades smuggled migrants have been exploited during their journey by their smugglers, yet many fail to report it for fear of reprisal or being returned to their home country.  New draft legislation in the country could now finally deter smuggler networks in West Africa.

Two draft laws to combat the smuggling of migrants and abolish the trafficking in persons are under approval by Mauritania’s Council of Ministers. Provisions have also been made to protect victims of smuggling and trafficking networks.

Mauritania has become a key point on the route of hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharan African migrants trying to reach Europe by sea.

However the new proposed draft laws reflect the determination of national authorities to combat this phenomenon effectively - particular by punishing complicity in the smuggling of migrants.

“The creation of a national body to combat trafficking in persons and the introduction of protection and assistance to victims of exploitation is a real game changer for the country. It is a huge achievement,” said Malick Sy, National Project Officer, Human Traffiking and Smuggling of Migrants Unit, UNODC.

Nouakchott, Mauritania

At the request of the Minister of Justice, UNODC provided technical assistance throughout the draft law consultation process with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  The process aimed to strengthen national actions by enhancing the capacities of the criminal justice system in order to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate trafficking in persons and to ensure victim protection, through a greater collaboration with civil society organizations.

The draft laws were considered and approved during the weekly ministerial meeting held on 12th March 2020 under the chairmanship of Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, President of the Republic of Mauritania.

Up to now very few cases of trafficking in persons have been investigated and prosecuted before criminal courts. The participation of UNODC during the consultation process made it possible to assess that there is an important need for training on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants of all the criminal justice chain including magistrates, police and gendarmes’ officers.

Meanwhile the draft law on the smuggling of migrants grants specific protection measures to children and other vulnerable persons, introduces sanctions for complicity and smuggling of migrants at sea, and introduces an amendment to facilitate and protect smuggled migrants in the voluntary return of migrants in their home country.

Dr. Haïmouda Ould Ramdane, the Minister of Justice, further asked that UNODC continues its support through a technical assistance to train the judicial actors and law enforcement on TIPSOM including the new legislation.  The Council of Ministers have also endorsed a National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (NAPLTP 2020-2022).

Draft laws under review

The draft laws comply with international commitments including the Palermo protocol ratified in 2005 by Mauritania, as follows:

  • Draft law repealing and replacing certain provisions of Law No. 2010-021 of 15 February 2010 on combating the smuggling of migrants that is intended to ensure that the human rights of migrants are better taken into account in national legislation on the fight against the smuggling of migrants.
  • Draft law amending Law No. 25/2003 of 17th July 2003 on the prevention and suppression of trafficking in persons and the protection of victims. This legislation provides for accompanying measures, strengthens the protection of victims and prevention, while proposing the harmonization of penalties for trafficking in persons’ offences with those provided for in the Act criminalizing slavery.