Syrian refugees in Mauritania dream of resettlement

Published: 1/Sep/2017
Source: Middle East Eye

After flight from civil war, Syrians describe difficult life in Mauritania, telling MEE ‘we feel like outsiders’ despite local sympathy

By Jillian D’Amours

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania – Mohamad Mudar Oulabie knows he doesn’t have many choices.

But after almost five years in Mauritania, an impoverished and isolated country on the coast of West Africa, the 52-year-old father of four is becoming increasingly frustrated.


No prospect of naturalisation

Aref Aryan, also a Syrian refugee, has lived in Mauritania for 20 years.

Formerly a furniture trader and operator of a construction company, he now makes and sells cement bricks to other construction companies in Nouakchott.

Aryan told MEE that he last visited Syria in 2011. He planned to leave Mauritania at that time and re-establish his life in Idlib, where he hails from, but as the war worsened, he realised he could never go back.

“I’m wanted by the regime. I’m wanted by the Islamists. What can I do? How can I go back?” he said. He said one of his nephews has been killed and another nephew was disappeared, while his sister was detained after being stopped at a checkpoint in 2013.

His mother, who was 85 years old at the time, died of a brain clot only 10 days after the family’s home was destroyed in the fighting, he said.

While Aryan said the situation for Syrian refugees in Mauritania may be better than that of Syrians living in refugee camps elsewhere, he complained that after two decades he still has not received permanent residency, or citizenship, in Mauritania.

“If there is no prospect of naturalisation,” he said he prefers to be resettled with his family in “any country with respect for human rights”.

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Themes: Naturalisation and Marriage, Nationality and Refugees
Regions: Mauritania
Year: 2017