Refugees and asylum seekers in Tunisia originate mainly from the Middle East, sub-Sahara and the horn of Africa. Most reach Tunisia by land or air from neighbouring countries, and within mixed migration movements, by sea or land to/from Libya.
Tunisia has yet to adopt a national asylum system. UNHCR is the sole entity responsible for conducting registration and Refugee Status Determination (RSD). The unstable political and socio-economic situation provides limited durable solutions for most refugees and asylum seekers.
The deteriorating security and political situation of neighbouring countries, including Libya, has the potential to trigger a significant influx of persons in need of international protection and assistance.
COVID – 19 IN TUNISIA
Strict measures to slow the spread of the virus were introduced relatively early in Tunisia compared to other countries in the region, resulting in a small number of cases (around 1,000) from March until June. After the reopening of international borders on 27 June, a rise in cases was recorded with a new wave of local contaminations bringing the number of cases up to over 15,000 in September. Tunisian government announced new preventive measures that entered into force on 26th August, such as the obligation to wear a mask in all public places and to present a negative PCR test to enter the country from abroad.
A verification exercise conducted by UNHCR at the end of April 2020 evidenced the deep and hard-hitting economic impact of the COVID crisis on persons of concern in Tunisia, as 70% declared not being able to pay for rent, food, medicines and utilities. Cash assistance was therefore expanded to reach a larger number of vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers.
Hygiene kits were distributed, as well as government and civil society food packages to refugee families. People reaching Tunisia within mixed population movements are systematically placed into 14-days quarantine and tested. Communication with communities was expanded across Tunisia, with five new hotlines established and social media platforms enhanced for two-way communication with persons of concern. Preventive health measures were put in place in UNHCR-managed shelters.
UNHCR supported the Government by donating Refugee Housing Units for visitor screening in hospitals and isolation of cases.