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Amnesty International USA, Columbus Dispatch Call on Trump Administration to Halt Mauritanian Deportations

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“US shouldn’t become new persecutor of refugees”

The Columbus Dispatch is out with a new editorial, “US shouldn’t become new persecutor of refugees,” decrying the U.S. government’s insistence on deporting Black Mauritanians to a country that is likely to arrest and enslave them. The issue was recently raised in a powerful cover story in The Atlantic, with additional reporting from the Dispatch and ABC 6.  

The Dispatch editorial board writes:  

On the Far East Side, a community of refugees from Mauritania that has been living relatively quiet lives for the past two decades is now gripped with fear because, since Trump took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials seemingly have targeted them for deportation.

Known in their west African home country as Black Moors, they fled in the 1990s because the nation’s Arab rulers had embarked on a campaign of persecution. Blacks were forcibly expelled from the country, their existence erased from official records. Tens of thousands who remain are enslaved in one of the last bastions of human servitude….

Many of those were ordered deported years ago, but were essentially left alone as long as they reported periodically to ICE. Many received work permits. They got jobs, started businesses, bought houses and built families and productive lives. Now, all of that is in jeopardy.

The U.S. and central Ohio would in no way benefit from the removal of these people, but their lives likely would be destroyed.

Also today, Amnesty International USA issued a statement calling on the Trump administration to “halt possible deportation of Mauritanian asylees living in the US.”

Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International USA’s Deputy Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, said: “The deportation of individuals back to an environment where they risk possible enslavement shows disdain for their human dignity and basic human rights and a complete violation of international law that flies in the face of decades of US traditions.  These are people that have built lives and communities in the United States, started families, raised American children, and would now face the threat of slavery, torture, and death in Mauritania.”

Black Mauritanians are being deported to a country that doesn’t even consider them to be citizens and has the highest rate of slavery worldwide according to the CIA World Handbook. Currently, around twenty to twenty-five Mauritanians are being held in detention facilities across Ohio, and some have been moved to Arizona in preparation for their removal via charter flight. It is unknown how many are currently detained nationwide.   

“Prior administrations recognized that deporting people to slavery is un-American,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deportation Defense Coordinator with America’s Voice. “Under Trump, the policy is relentless, single-minded deportation. The only thing that matters is removing people from this country — which means removing them from homes, jobs, families, and lives — and in the case of Black Mauritanians, sending them to the slavery and human rights abuses they fled twenty years ago.  This is an outrage, and a human rights atrocity, and one that we cannot allow to keep happening.”

For more on the political situation in Mauritania, see this report from Amnesty International USA.  For US deportation policy to this nation, see this from America’s Voice.