MAURITANIA (TIER 3) [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]
Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Slavery-related practices, rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships, continue to exist in isolated parts of the country. Mauritanian boys called talibe are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging. Children are also trafficked by street gangs within the country that force them to steal, beg, and sell drugs. Girls are trafficked internally for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Mauritanian children may also be trafficked for forced agricultural and construction labor, herding, and for forced labor in the fishing industry within the country. Boys from Mali and Senegal are trafficked to Mauritania for forced begging by religious teachers. Senegalese and Malian girls are trafficked to Mauritania for domestic servitude and forced prostitution. Ghanaian and Nigerian women and girls may be trafficked to Mauritania for sexual exploitation. Reports indicate that while some slaves are forced by their masters to remain in conditions of servitude, others stay with their masters because they lack land and other means to live freely.
The Government of Mauritania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government did not show evidence of overall progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders, protecting trafficking victims, and preventing new incidents of trafficking. Progress that the previous government demonstrated in 2007 through enactment of strengthened anti-slavery legislation and deepened political will to eliminate slavery and trafficking has stalled.
Recommendations for Mauritania: Improve on the current void of anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts by investigating and prosecuting slavery and other trafficking offenses, and convicting and punishing trafficking offenders; consider measures to allow NGOs to file complaints on behalf of slaves; provide slaves with land and other resources to live freely; increase assistance to child trafficking victims; end the practice of penalizing children trafficked in prostitution by placing them in prison and train authorities to identify trafficking victims among children detained for criminal conduct and illegal migrants; and increase efforts to educate the public about slavery and trafficking.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) reportedly issued a directive for the enforcement of the new anti-slavery law. The ministry also reported to have sent delegations to all regions of the country to educate local authorities about the law. Local NGOs, however, were unaware of these initiatives. Labor inspectors lack the basic resources, such as transport and office equipment, needed to investigate forced labor cases. In May 2008, the MOJ collaborated with UNICEF to host a child trafficking seminar for judges and law enforcement officials.
The government did not encourage victims to assist in trafficking investigations or prosecutions. Mauritania does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. Victims are inappropriately incarcerated or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government continued to place children in jail for stealing or engaging in commercial sexual activity, despite the fact that many of them are likely trafficking victims who have been forced into these activities. The government does not follow procedures to identify trafficking victims among illegal immigrants detained in a center in Nouadhibou, where conditions are extremely harsh.