Migration limbo in Mauritania

Illegal migrants still waiting to be repatriated, one week after being rescued.

    Marine 1 broke down as it attempted
    to reach Spain's Canary Islands
    Al Jazeera has gained exclusive access to a group of would-be migrants who are stranded in the town of Nouadhibou in northern Mauritania.

    The Indians were supposed to have been repatriated within four hours of arriving at a camp run by the Red Crescent aid agency but most of them are still there more than a week later.

    About 300 Asians and Africans were aboard a ship that was towed to Mauritania on February 12. The battered trawler Marine 1 broke down as it was trying to reach Spain's Canary Islands, where more than 30,000 illegal migrants came ashore last year.

    The camp where the men are being held in is an abandoned fish-processing factory and conditions in the small space are appalling.

    "This place is unbearable. It's very filthy and not fit for a human being. We are treated like animals, mere animals," one man told Al Jazeera.

    Some of them were injured during their journey and are now barely able to walk to what passes for bathrooms. Several have been immobilised by their injuries.

    "My hands are wounded. I cannot move them, wash them or eat with them. It makes my tragic situation even worse," another would-be migrant said.

    Spanish responsibility

    Spain agreed to take responsibility for the vessel and its passengers if Mauritania allowed the boat to be towed to Nouadhibou. Madrid is now supposed to repatriate the men, many of whom have no passports.

    India has insisted that the men be identified before they are sent back.

    "The identity verfication process is continuing. We have an attache here and our consul is joining us to hasten the operation," Barbati Sen Vyas, the Indian ambassador to Mauritania, told Al Jazeera.

    Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Spain's vice-president, told Spanish state radio last week that the processing would take time.
    She said: "We are carrying out an important task which requires respect for the law and international co-operation. We are doing it with respect for human rights, with the co-operation of migration officials, and the identification is being done in the best way possible."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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