As of 30 November 2020, Tunisia recorded 96,769 total cases of COVID-19. In the last two months, some 75,000 new cases were recorded. On 15 November, Tunisian Prime Minister extended the preventive measures in place for an additional period of three weeks, including night curfew, early closure of cafes and restaurants, suspension of travel between governorates, attendance at places of worship and a ban on all gatherings and public events; while schools and university lectures resumed as normal. Starting from 16 November, new rules for travellers coming from abroad entered into force as well. In order to comply with those measures, most of the group activities for refugees and asylum-seekers were suspended or conducted with reduced presence, while in-office presence for UNHCR staff is limited to 50 per cent.
Following the agreement between Tunisia and Libya over the re-opening of the land and air borders between the two countries, trade and movement of people resumed as normal on border crossing points of Ras Jedir and Dehiba from 14 November and flights resumed on 15 November. All the movements are subject to a health protocol established between the two countries. Meanwhile, UNHCR and IOM, together with the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office and other UN Agencies, have been supporting the authorities to improve reception capacity in case of an influx from Libya.
On 10 – 11 November, Tunisia hosted the first virtual Mayors’ Forum on Inclusive Cities in North Africa, organized by the UNHCR Middle East and North Africa Bureau in collaboration with the Tunis Municipality. More information is available in Tunisia’s Special Update #2.
Following advocacy efforts conducted from UNHCR in Sfax, which hosts the second largest refugee community in Tunisia, the Department of Social Affairs agreed to systematically deliver disability cards to refugees and asylum-seekers who put forward a request. Receipt of this card will support refugees in accessing much-needed specialized services. A Palestinian refugee living in Sfax received the disability card from Tunisian authorities; the first to receive this card.
Refugees and asylum-seekers hosted in “Zeitouna” shelter in Zarzis held group discussions around the concept of tolerance, with the support of UNHCR’s partner, the Tunisian Refugee Council (CTR). The participants shared their experiences of living in a country different from their own and with other people from different backgrounds and cultures. Following the discussion, participants translated their reflections into paintings. These artworks will be exposed in public places such as the local hospital, the police station, the post office, and in some cafes in order to raise awareness about asylum and divulgate the concept of peaceful coexistence.
To facilitate refugee children’s inclusion in the host community and to develop their self-confidence and communication skills, six refugee children (8 – 10 years old) living in Sfax participated in a puppet theatre course organized by a local association. The first two classes were on storytelling and scriptwriting, and the course will end up with a show led by the children.
During November, UNHCR welcomed the multi-year generous contribution from the Government of the Netherlands to the Tunisia operation. Predictable funding allows UNHCR to better plan and ensure refugees and asylum-seekers are not left behind. The Netherlands contribution will strengthen Refugee Status Determination (RSD), resettlement and reception capacity, as well as provide psychosocial assistance and healthcare.