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Amnesty International USA calls upon the Trump administration to refrain from deporting Mauritanians who have sought refuge and safety in the United States without renewed and fair consideration of their claims for protection. Many of them had previously sought asylum based on fears of human rights abuses including possible enslavement and racial discrimination.

The Trump administration’s aggressive anti-immigration policies enforced by ICE would place hundreds and possibly thousands of Mauritanians at risk upon their return to the west African nation.

“The deportation of individuals back to an environment where they risk possible enslavement shows disdain for their human dignity and basic human rights and a complete violation of international law that flies in the face of decades of US traditions” stated Adotei Akwei, Amnesty international USA’s Deputy Director of Advocacy and Government Relations.

“These are people that have built lives and communities in the United States, started families, raised American children, and would now face the threat of slavery, torture, and death in Mauritania.”

Mauritanians deported from the United States would face the stigma of being perceived to be activists or dissidents and could face deadly attacks.

Background

In a March 2018 report entitled “A Sword Hanging Over Our Heads”: The Repression of Activists Speaking Out Against Discrimination and Slavery in Mauritania, Amnesty International found that slavery and racial discrimination remain rife in Mauritania, despite the formal abolition of slavery in 1981, its criminalization in 2007 and its elevation to a crime against humanity in 2012. While there is no official data, international anti-slavery groups estimated the number of people living in slavery in 2016 to be up to 43,000, about 1% of the total population.

Amnesty International also concluded that the Mauritanian government continues to use repressive laws and disruptive tactics including prohibiting peaceful protests, using excessive force against demonstrators; banning human rights organizations and interfering with their activities; arbitrary arrest, torture and other ill-treatment, vicious smear campaigns, assaults and death threats all carried out with complete impunity. This dangerous environment is worsening as the country gears up for parliamentary elections in September. The Mauritanian security forces have arrested journalists, opposition figures and anti-slavery activists in an apparent pre-election crackdown on dissent.