During the month of July, Tunisia reached a peak in new COVID-19 contaminations (up to 9,000 daily) and deaths (totalling 20,000) due also to the rapid surge of the Delta variant. Further stringent measures were adopted from 1st July while medical aid and supplies were donated by foreign countries, including 4 million vaccination doses. In addition, Tunisia faced an unprecedented political crisis after President Kaïs Saied overthrew the Government and suspended the parliament on 25 July. UNHCR activities were affected by the current situation, as field visits were restricted, most group activities suspended, and in-office presence of staff limited to the minimum.
According to local sources, over 3,400 individuals were intercepted or rescued along Tunisia’s coast in July while attempting to reach Europe, confirming the upward trend observed in recent months. UNHCR contributed to the emergency assistance of 437 rescued individuals and provided temporary accommodation to 92 of them who expressed their intention to seek asylum in Tunisia. UNHCR will then proceed with profiling, registration and assistance as needed.
As part of national efforts to combat COVID-19, UNHCR donated four Refugee Housing Units (RHUs) to health facilities in Gabes Governorate to serve as screening units for persons seeking treatment. In total, 36 RHUs were donated by UNHCR to public health units since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, UNHCR provided 700 rapid antigenic tests, 5,000 pairs of gloves and 2,000 face masks to the regional hospital of Medenine Habib Bourguiba Governorate and 700 rapid antigenic tests, 1,000 pairs of gloves and 2,000 face masks and 1,000 gowns to Habib Bourguiba Hospital in Sfax.
Furthermore, UNHCR continued its SMS campaign launched in May 2021, targeting refugees and asylum seekers to raise awareness on COVID-19 and to inform them that they can sign-up to receive the Covid-19 vaccine via the official online portal (www.evax.tn/), using the number on their UNHCR registration card as well.
In southern governorates, over 220 medical consultations and check-ups were held with refugees and asylum seekers living in UNHCR shelters in order to diminish risks of Covid-19 spread. Moreover, over 180 refugees and asylum seekers were reached on the phone or through home visits and sensitized on Covid-19 prevention and on the vaccination campaign.
In July, UNHCR and its partners the Arab Institute for Human rights (AIHR) and the Tunisian Council for Refugees (CTR), together with the Tunisian Ministry of Social Affairs, launched the first lifelong learning university courses (ULV) for refugees and asylum seekers. Arabic, French and music classes are now available to persons of concern to further help them improve their skills.
UNHCR Tunisia welcomed the 100,000 EUR contribution from Luxembourg to its programmes of protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.