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Crossing Paths - A Respondent Driven Sampling survey of migrants and refugees in Nouadhibou, Mauritania

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Summary of Findings

Considering the widely divergent estimations and the hard-to-reach nature of migrant and refugee populations on the move who choose to stay apart and be discreet, the UN refugee agency in Mauritania, UNHCR, used Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) in Nouadhibou to more accurately estimate this population. RDS relies on peers recruiting their peers.

The survey estimates the number of migrants and refugees, aged 14 and older, originating from Western, Central and Eastern Africa living in Nouadhibou to be around 10,000. The survey found that most migrants and refugees in Nouadhibou are male, single, from Mali, and work mostly in the fishing and construction industries. Women make up 26% of the migrant and refugee population; they are less mobile than men and have been living in Nouadhibou for more than one year; they tend to live more often with others; they have children and are begging. As for adolescents aged 14 to 17, they represent 6% of the migrants and refugees in Nouadhibou. The largest group among them is made of Malians. This population includes migrants and refugees; the reasons for which they left their countries are mainly due to economic hardship, but also to fear of persecution et violence.

The survey concludes that a large diversity of nationalities and profiles live in Nouadhibou; the largest group comes from Mali. This population is made up of both migrants and refugees; the reasons for leaving their home country are mainly due to economic hardship, but also due to fear of persecution and violence.

The survey shows that most migrants and refugees are not necessarily trying to move to Europe, rather that most went to Mauritania to look for work (or seek asylum, in particular for women). The survey also shows that the Western African region has dynamic mixed movements, and that migrants and refugees take the same routes to reach Mauritania. An interesting finding is that the migration route from the south to Mauritania has less smuggling activity than the route north of Mauritania. This may be a reason for why few migrants and refugees reported being victim of or having observed trafficking. Last, regarding access to social services, most migrants and refugees face difficulties in having access to basic services and finding decent housing and work. Besides, access to legal documentation is a major concern for all.