UNHCR Tunisia Operational Update - 28 February 2021

Situation Report
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Operational Context

According to local reports, Tunisian authorities carried out more than 31 rescue and interception operations in February both on land and at sea, involving more than 1,223 persons. On 13 February, a vessel which departed from Sfax carrying 26 persons of different nationalities (Mali, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Comoros) was intercepted by the Tunisian Coast Guard and disembarked in Tunisia. Between 1 January and 21 February, an estimated 3,800 individuals arrived to Italy by sea, including nearly 1,000 from Tunisia and 2,500 from Libya.

As of 28 February 2021, Tunisia recorded 233,277 total cases of COVID-19. A notable spike in cases was observed during the beginning of 2021, with a 70% increase of cases in the last quarter only. In line with government measures and UN Country Team management recommendations, most group activities for refugees and asylum-seekers were suspended or conducted through remote modality.

Operational Response

In February, UNHCR delivered hygiene items and medical equipment to support the Tunisian Government’s COVID-19 response. UNHCR provided the Municipalities of Sfax, Medenine and Zarzis with medical equipment and materials to support their administrative function and provided logistical support on the development of a COVID-19 rehabilitation unit at Djerba’s regional hospital.

During February, UNHCR provide 5.269 registered refugees and asylum-seekers with a one-time cash grant. The grant will help support their most immediate and pressing needs including food and shelter.

UNHCR and partner Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR) further developed the first Arabic-language portal in Tunisia, which aims to collect scientific and editorial resources related to asylum issues in the country and region. The portal will also serve as a platform for juridical as well as academic research and debate on issues of asylum and forced displacement, with contributions from academic institutions, research centres, think tanks and non-governmental organizations.

On 16 February, UNHCR coordinated with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the University of Lifelong Learning to include access for refugees and asylum-seekers to the university’s courses, including language, vocational training, and cultural activities. This partnership will better enhance the overall inclusion of refugees and asylum-seekers in Tunisia when it comes to academic and learning opportunities.

In February, UNHCR expanded its legal assistance by opening a new office in the city of Sousse governorate in order to meet the growing demand for legal advice from refugees and asylum-seekers in the area. Legal support services are now available to persons of concern in the cities of Tunis, Sousse and Medenine to provide better advice and to meet their protection needs.

A Female Peer Educators club was launched in UNHCR office in Sfax, led by volunteers of the refugee community. The club will seek to encourage social engagement by refugees and asylum-seekers and work to combat Gender Based Violence, with female participants to benefit from specialized trainings and services.