Source: UN Human Rights Council
45. The adamant insistence on the part of the Government that it cannot take account of ethnicity in its policies has the effect of reinforcing the status quo. An egregious example of this is the fact that individuals from the less-favoured groups — Haratines and Afro-Mauritanians — make up the overwhelming majority of those who have been unable to obtain a national identity card, without which very little can be done in Mauritania. Despite requests to the Government by the Special Rapporteur for an estimate of how many adults in Mauritania lack proof of registration of civil status in the form of a national identity card, no convincing answers were forthcoming. Although the problem is clearly a major one, the Government either does not know, or is unwilling to disclose, how many people have not been registered. Persons without an identity card cannot attend school beyond the primary level, cannot qualify for many government benefits, cannot vote and generally cannot own land. The bureaucracy responsible for issuing identity cards is cumbersome and determinedly unresponsive and challenging the system is beyond the means of most of those affected. Appeals must be brought before the court, and a host of bureaucratic arrangements have been introduced by law and in practice, which have the effect of deterring many applicants, most of whom are Haratine or Afro-Mauritanian.
46. Although by no means limited to them, the resulting system is especially problematic for those Afro-Mauritanians who were expelled in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the context of the passif humanitaire, whose identity documents were confiscated or lost, and who, upon return, have encountered severe difficulties in obtaining identity documents in order to enjoy full citizenship rights. This group can roughly be divided into two groups: those who returned voluntarily, mostly in the 1990s, and those who returned as the result of a tripartite agreement between Mauritania, Senegal and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2007. Both groups have had serious problems obtaining identity cards, although the latter group has benefited from protections under the tripartite agreement
Download from OHCHR: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/35/26/Add.1