A Comparative Study on the Benefits of Nationality
Edited by Brad K. Blitz and Maureen Lynch
Chapter 8: Mauritania: Citizenship Lost and Found
Julia Harrington Reddy In January 2008, an important exercise began: the first of tens of thousands of Mauritanian refugees, exiled since 1989 in Senegal, returned to their country under the terms of a tripartite agreement between the UNHCR and the Senegalese and Mauritanian governments.1 The tripartite agreement specifies that Mauritanian refugees in Senegal shall have the right to return to Mauritania and be recognized as Mauritanian citizens. The logistics of the returns are to be organized by the UNCHR, with the Mauritania government doing its part by issuing the necessary citizenship documents to the returnees.2 Some months later, the first of these returnees did obtain their Mauritanian ID cards. The story of how they lost recognition of their Mauritanian citizenship and became refugees in the first place is an alltoo-common story of ethnic discrimination transformed by state policy into the destruction or denial of legal identity. Similar attacks on the legal status and rights of minority groups happen across Africa and around the world. The events in Mauritania are worthy of note because the actions of the state were so stark and explicit; because an international tribunal condemned the denationalizations and expulsions as a violation of international treaty law; because those affected maintained coherent and consistent demands for repatriation for nearly 20 years; and because there are now concrete steps towards a happy resolution, one that will see those arbitrarily denationalized restored to the citizenship they had lost. MAURITANIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW Mauritanian citizenship law is based on French citizenship law....
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