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UN agencies facilitate the integration of Malian refugees in Mauritania

Within the framework of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are joining hands to improve the livelihoods of Malian refugees and host communities whole live in and nearby the Mbera refugee camp in Eastern Mauritania.

More than 55,000 Malian refugees who fled the war in their country in 2012, are living in the Mbera camp in eastern Mauritania, roughly 60 kilometers from the border with Mali. With little or no opportunity for socio-economic integration into the local labour market, they survive mainly on humanitarian aid.
To meet their economic needs, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) joined efforts to improve living conditions of refugees and host communities through an ambitious project aiming at promoting decent employment and refugee integration in Mauritania.

Thus, in December 2018, the ILO, with the support of UNHCR, started to implement the project “Strengthening the empowerment of refugees and host populations through improved employability of young people in the construction sector”.

This project which marks the start of an ILO-UNHCR partnership in Mauritania is an operationalization of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Joint Action Plan between the two organizations. The agreement highlights the importance of the right to work for displaced population in the world, through concrete actions on the field in order to improve the living conditions of refugees and local communities.

These activities are also undertaken under the Partnership Framework with the government of Mauritania for Sustainable Development (CPDD) 2018-2022.
In their Joint action, ILO and UNHCR combine humanitarian and development approaches to achieve refugee empowerment and peaceful coexistence between refugees and host communities.

The project specifically aims to provide young refugees in the Mbera camp and the host community youth with the opportunity to have access to certified quality training in several trades of the building and public works sector and in sectors that boost local economic development.

For this reason, a polyvalent vocational training center was built in the Mbera camp, providing a learning framework that will promote the development of new skills, and the qualification and certification of young people by the national monitoring and validation learning system under the auspices of the Technical and Vocational Training Department.

So far, more than 565 young Malian refugees and Mauritanians have been trained by the project in various trades of the building and public works sector, of which 200 are already employed in the private sector. In addition, 5 cooperatives and 25 micro-enterprises have been created and strengthened since the end of 2018.
In the long term the center will train more than 6,000 refugees and young members of the host population.

Within this joint partnership UNHCR-ILO framework to support the implementation of UNISS, new projects are being implemented with support from Japan and the Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migration (BPRM) of the United States whose focus will be on a training program in the dairy, tailoring and automobile mechanic value chain. These projects will complement other interventions such as the construction of two primary schools, two mini-dairies, a livestock and craftsmen center, and an access road to Mbera camp to facilitate the movement of people and to foster socio-economic interactions and exchanges between the different communities that live in the area.

The partnership between UNHCR and ILO constitutes a major realization that facilitates socio-economic integration through the strengthening of the entrepreneurial tissue, the development of new skills demanded by the labour market and the empowerment of the youth in the Sahel.