Joint Border Control Programme begins between Mauritania and European Union
(6 February 2012)
On 22 January 2012 the 2 million euro West Sahel Project was launched by the European Union (EU). Initially, the project is intended to provide support in policing Mauritania’s borders through a joint border patrol programme with the Spanish Guardia Civil, with 80 percent of the funding coming from the EU. The partnership would primarily involve training conducted by Spain, and personnel exchange programmes, along with the provision of new monitoring equipment. The project is aimed to combat trans-border crime and potential terrorism threats, but it may also be aimed at reducing irregular migration to the EU through Spain, particularly via Spain's Canary Islands. The Spanish ambassador to Mauritania, Alonso Dezcallar de Mazarredo, was quoted as saying, "Mauritania is a neighbouring country and whatever happens in it affects Spain directly. The Spanish government is aware that Mauritania has limited resources in terms of border monitoring, and thus our government is offering its aid to bridge the gap." At a launch event in September 2011, held in the coastal town of Nouakchott, the head of the EU delegation, Hans-Georg Gerstenlauer stated that "The project will provide Mauritania with state-of-the-art equipment that will facilitate the monitoring of its borders," and that it “aims at improving the mechanism for monitoring the land borders with the Sahel states such as Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Senegal.” Mauritania has over 5,000 kilometres of land borders.
The inauguration of the Project in January 2012 took place in the northern coastal town of Nouadhibou, which is seen as a key location for trafficking and migration. Already a land border surveillance training session is planned at the National Maritime and Fishing Training School in Nouadhibou, where fifteen Mauritanian gendarmes will be trained by two Spanish Guardia Civil officers. They will then be invited to participate in joint patrols with the Guardia Civil for three months. Although information regarding the overall Project remains limited, the European Commission website indicates that the project will run until March 2013, and will include additional agreements with Senegal, Niger and Mali.
This is not the first occasion in which the EU has conducted joint border patrol operations with Mauritania. In 2006 the agency tasked with monitoring the external borders of the EU, Frontex, conducted maritime patrols along the coasts of Mauritania, Senegal and Cape Verde, through Operation HERA II, intended to return migrants headed for the Canaries.
Sources: ‘West Sahel Project’ supports Mauritania border security, Bakari Gueye, Magharebia, 27 January 2012; ‘EU backs project to monitor Mauritania borders’, Magharebia, 27 September 2011; ‘Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings: West Sahel — Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal’, European Commission, 19 December 2011; ‘Longest FRONTEX coordinated operation – HERA, the Canary Islands’, Frontex press release, 19 December 2006.