Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August 2014, 14:59 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Tunisia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Tunisia, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c893c.html [accessed 20 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

TUNISIA (Tier 2)

Tunisia is a source, destination, and possible transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some Tunisian girls are employed in domestic work in Tunis and other governorates. In northwest Tunisia, a network of brokers and hiring agencies facilitates child domestic work, but international observers note this phenomenon has been decreasing over time. Some are reportedly held under conditions of forced labor, including being given no time off, having no employment contracts, experiencing physical and sexual abuse, and being confined to their employers' homes. During the reporting period, political unrest in Tunisia and neighboring Libya triggered a wave of illegal migration through and from Tunisia to Italy, some of which was facilitated by Tunisian smuggling networks; some of these migrants may have also been trafficking victims. Moreover, migrants who fled Libya to Tunisia may have been trafficked to Libya from third countries and continue to be vulnerable to trafficking in Tunisia, including unaccompanied minors and child migrants identified in refugee camps along the Tunisia-Libya border; IOM reported young Malian girls who were forced into prostitution in Choucha refugee camp in southern Tunisia. According to international organizations, there was an increased presence of street children in Tunisia during this reporting period and more rural children are having to work to support their families; some of these children may be susceptible to involuntary exploitation. Tunisian women are recruited for work in Lebanon's entertainment industry through artiste visas and are forced into prostitution after arrival; during the year, four Tunisian women were falsely promised jobs as secretaries in Lebanon and forced into prostitution. Similarly, Tunisian women are found working in Jordanian nightclubs, and some are forced into prostitution.

The Government of Tunisia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Since the previous regime, the interim government has shown some commitment to address human trafficking, particularly by establishing a National Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons and by drafting comprehensive counter-trafficking legislation, which is still pending. Some victims of trafficking remain unidentified and unprotected, reflecting the previous government's lack of effort to identify them among vulnerable groups. Despite these positive steps forward, the Tunisian government continues to maintain, as it has done in previous reporting periods, that trafficking in persons is not a widespread problem in Tunisia. Moreover, the Tunisian government views human trafficking through a migration lens and does not differentiate migrant smuggling from human trafficking.

Recommendations for Tunisia: Urgently pass and enact the draft comprehensive counter-trafficking legislation that prohibits and adequately punishes all forms of human trafficking concurrent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; with outside assistance, urgently develop and begin implementation of formal procedures for government officials' proactive identification of victims of human trafficking (distinct from smuggling) among vulnerable groups such as street children, undocumented migrants, girls in domestic service, and persons in prostitution; use existing criminal statutes on forced labor and forced prostitution to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders; undertake a baseline assessment to better understand the scope and magnitude of the human trafficking problem; institute a formal victim identification mechanism to identify victims among undocumented migrants and offer them access to protection services; and continue implementing awareness campaigns about trafficking in persons and anti-trafficking trainings for all government officials.

Prosecution

Tunisia has not enacted its draft law specifically addressing trafficking in persons, but Tunisia's Penal Code prohibits some forms of human trafficking, such as its prohibition of capturing, detaining, or sequestering a person for forced labor, for which it prescribes a punishment of 10 years' imprisonment, and the prohibition of forced prostitution of women and children, for which it prescribes a punishment of five years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, though not commensurate with penalties prescribed under Tunisian law for other serious offenses, such as rape. In addition to these statutes, the Penal Code prescribes one to two years' imprisonment for forced child begging. However, the government did not report investigations or prosecutions of trafficking offenses, nor convictions of trafficking offenders, during this reporting period. Unlike the previous reporting period, government officials, including child protection officers from the Ministry of Women's Affairs, military and border police, and immigration officers, participated in four IOM- and UNHCR-sponsored anti-trafficking trainings in mid-2011. The government, in cooperation with IOM and UNHCR, also developed written procedures to alert law enforcement officers of indicators to identify trafficking victims.

Protection

The Government of Tunisia made greater efforts to protect victims of trafficking over the last year, yet the government continued to lack formal procedures to identify proactively trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as undocumented migrants and those persons detained for prostitution offenses. The government operated several shelters for marginalized and vulnerable groups, including unwed mothers, at-risk youth, and substance abusers among others, but there are no centers specifically for trafficking victims. The Tunisian Coast Guard, with the support of Italy, conducted 281 operations in which it intercepted and detained African migrants aboard boats off Tunisia's coast, but Tunisian authorities made no discernible effort to identify trafficking victims among those intercepted. The Tunisian government views human trafficking through a migration lens and does not differentiate migrant smuggling from human trafficking. During the reporting period, the government, in conjunction with various international organizations, offered health, counseling and educational services and provided temporary shelter to Libyans and third country nationals who fled Libya; however, because the government does not differentiate economic migrants from human trafficking victims, the government did not make efforts to identify trafficking victims among this vulnerable group. With the help of IOM and other international partners, the Ministry of Women's Affairs assisted two underage Malian trafficking victims at its shelter for unaccompanied minors. The government ensured that its 380 labor inspectors receive training to identify abusive child labor and indicators of human trafficking; similarly, Ministry of Education truancy officers were instructed to identify indicators that suggest parents are pressuring their children to drop out of school and become domestic servants, which carries a high risk of forced labor. The government did not offer foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face hardship or retribution.

Prevention

Unlike the Ben Ali regime, the current Tunisian government made significant efforts to raise awareness about trafficking and train government officials during the reporting period. The Tunisian Ministries of Social Affairs, Education, and Employment and Vocational Training initiated public awareness campaigns in the primary school curriculum to dissuade teenagers and young adults from emigrating illegally and potentially becoming victims of trafficking. The government also supported IOM counter-trafficking awareness campaigns for refugee camp residents. Moreover, the Ministry of Employment conducted investigations and began background checks of all recruitment agencies operating in Tunisia; recruitment agencies are now required to sign contracts with the Ministry of Employment before they can recruit workers to work in Gulf countries. Unlike during the previous reporting period, the government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by enforcing laws against prostitution and arresting "clients" soliciting commercial sex; Ministry of the Interior officials continue to believe that the commercial sex trade is not prevalent in Tunisia. In 2011, the Tunisian government established a National Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons, composed of representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Social Affairs, Health, Finance, and Women's Affairs, as well as members of civil society; the committee met in February 2012 to discuss adoption of the proposed anti-trafficking legislation.

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