Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Special Cases - Tunisia

Tunisia is not listed in the Report this year because available information is insufficient to substantiate a significant number of trafficking victims in the country. It is possible, however, that victims of trafficking remain undetected due to lack of efforts in Tunisia to proactively identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as undocumented migrants.

Scope and Magnitude. Tunisia is a transit country for North and sub-Saharan African men and women migrating to Europe, some of whom may be trafficked for the purpose of involuntary servitude or sexual exploitation. The Government of Tunisia does not systematically differentiate trafficking victims from illegal migrants traveling through the country. Tunisia may also be a source country for internal trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation and labor, such as for domestic servitude.

Government Efforts. Tunisia does not prohibit all severe forms of trafficking in persons, but does prohibit forced prostitution through Article 233 of its penal code; which prescribes punishment of three to five years' imprisonment. In 1995, the Government of Tunisia passed the Child Protection Code, which protects children under 18 years old from participation in wars or armed conflicts, prostitution, and hazardous labor conditions; prescribed penalties for violations range from imprisonment for 16 days to one year. The government also prohibits forced labor, bonded labor, and slavery under the labor code; Article 236 prescribes fines as punishment. These prescribed penalties are neither sufficiently stringent nor commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. Tunisia could use other statutes to punish trafficking; for example, Article 250 of the penal code sentences those who illegally confine persons for any reason to ten years' imprisonment. In addition, the government could punish mistreatment of a child under section 224 of its Penal Code; prescribed penalties under this statute are up to five years' imprisonment. The government pursued no trafficking prosecutions under these laws this year. Training of Tunisian law enforcement officers and prosecutors is needed for more effective efforts against trafficking crimes. The Tunisian government might also consider enacting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of trafficking in persons, including both internal and transnational trafficking, and that assigns penalties that are sufficiently stringent to deter the crime and that adequately reflect the heinous nature of the crime.

The government monitors its borders closely to interdict smuggling and trafficking rings. However, Tunisia does not employ a formal mechanism to systematically identify trafficking victims among illegal migrants and those arrested for prostitution. Victims of trafficking, if identified, have access to social services available for the abused and vulnerable, but Tunisia does not have protection services specifically for victims of trafficking. The government assigns a child protection delegate to each district to ensure that child sexual abuse victims receive adequate medical care and counseling. Tunisia also employs government workers, including social workers, to assist in three shelters for abused women and children operated by the Tunisian National Women's Union. Nonetheless, some child victims of commercial sexual exploitation may be incarcerated for prostitution offenses. A formal victim identification mechanism to ensure that victims of trafficking – particularly minor victims – are not automatically deported, jailed, or punished for criminal acts committed as a result of being trafficked would be greatly beneficial. Similarly, the government's offering of legal alternatives to foreign trafficking victims' removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution is recommended.

Clients of persons in prostitution face jail sentences of six months' to two years' imprisonment. Nonetheless, the government should also consider instituting a public awareness campaign to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.


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