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16 May 2020 – Mauritania

Empty Streets of Nouakchott, Mauritania's capital, on 5 April 2020 (Cheyakhey Ali, Andalou Agency, AFP,
Empty Streets of Nouakchott, Mauritania's capital, on 5 April 2020 (Cheyakhey Ali, Andalou Agency, AFP, "Covid-19 : avec plus aucun cas positif, la Mauritanie semble avoir trouvé une stratégie gagnante contre l'épidémie," France Info, 23 April 2020,

With the support of Frontex, an agreement between Spain and Mauritania allows for the return of Mauritanian nationals or migrants arriving in the Canary Islands. In 2018, four flights were carried out. However, from mid 2019 to mid March 2020, nine flights took place. According to the Mixed Migration Centre, at the beginning of the pandemic, Mauritania did not close its borders to its nationals. Rather, it “imposed a quarantine on those returned from the Canary Islands, making deportation flights more challenging, but it had not stopped them entirely.’’

This procedure raised concerns, as many undocumented people were reportedly deported despite wishing to seek asylum in Spain.

As of early May, Mauritania had only nine confirmed cases of Covid-19. A curfew was imposed as soon as the first case was declared on 13 March, and borders were closed on 25 March. Many Mauritanian nationals are stuck abroad and can not enter the country. The army has been stationed along the Senegal River to prevent undocumented migrants from crossing. On 4 May, the IOM reported that over 1,000 people were waiting for a reopening of the border.

At the M’Béra refugee camp, which hosts tens of thousands of Malian refugees, UNHCR is assisting refugees and working to make sure that they are aware of Covid-19 sanitary measures.

According to the ICRC delegation in Mauritania, the Covid-19 crisis would have a ‘’dramatic’’ impact in the country’s prisons given the already existing issues related to access to water and sanitary products. It has been providing food and health care services in prisons and is now coordinating with the Mauritanian prison administration to raise awareness of the virus and prevention measures. Maret explained that for now, the country’s prisons are in a prevention and preparation phase. The ICRC has spoken with the country’s Ministry of Justice highlighting the need to decongest prisons, as has been done in other countries, by releasing the most vulnerable and imposing alternatives to detention. Authorities have released some prisoners although no official statement has been released by the government yet.