Mauritania : Red Cross provides assistance to refugees

Published: 21 April 2006 0:00 CET

Olivia Acosta in Mauritania, Spanish Red Cross

On March 2, the Mauritanian Red Crescent and the Spanish Red Cross started to assist migrants in holding facilities in Nouadhibou, Mauritania. The support covers basic needs (food, hygiene, health) of all the migrants, who come from several different countries and were detained while trying to reach the Canary Islands in small fishing canoes known as pirogues.

In the past few weeks Mauritania has experienced an increase in migration flows and sub sequentially an increase in vulnerable migrants in need of assistance. At present, there are three Spanish Red Cross delegates, Mauritanian Red Crescent officers and ten volunteers providing assistance to ensure that the basic needs of the migrants held in various locations in Nouadhibou are met.

The Spanish Red Cross and the Mauritanian Red Crescent have provided food, blankets, hygiene kits and health care for around 600 migrants since 2 March. They have also launched a programme to restore family links, which enables detained migrants to contact their relatives by mobile phone to let them know where they are and that they are safe. This measure was appreciated by the migrants, who have no other way of communicating with their loved ones, as they have no money or belongings.

“I arrived here from Gambia a few weeks ago and managed to leave on a pirogue two days ago for the Canary Islands. It was night time and we were very near to the coast when the authorities picked us up at sea,” recounts

Oumar, one of the detained migrants. “The trip cost me 200 euro, all that my family had been able to scrape together over the past years. Imagine what they will say when I am sent back to Gambia,” he says. ”They had their hopes set on me, they thought that I would be able to send them money from Spain. Yesterday I spoke to my mother using the telephone provided by the Red Cross/Red Crescent. She knows that I am well, but she is not happy, because I failed to reach Spain”, he adds.

Red Crescent volunteers remain with them at all times. Bamba Ould
Abderrahmane, a Mauritanian Red Crescent volunteer told us about a typical day at the holding centres: “I go to the centre every day to take food to the migrants and to talk to them. I am like a father to them. They tell me that there are no opportunities in their country and that they have no alternative but to get to Spain to help their families,” he explains. Many have suffered; they have seen their fellow travelers die and brushed with death themselves out at sea in those fragile boats, but they all feel relieved that the Mauritanian Red Crescent and the Spanish Red Cross are assisting them, because they know that they will be treated with dignity, Bamba concludes.