July 27, 2023
ALERT: The situation in Burkina Faso is rapidly deteriorating
Tunisia is a North-African country facing the Mediterranean Sea and sharing borders with Libya and Algeria. Despite the democratic achievements of the Jasmine Revolution, which led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, Tunisia still faces significant political and socio economic challenges with inflation reaching 10.2 % in January 2023 and alarming levels of food insecurity. Such difficulties are having a detrimental effect on refugees and asylum seekers. Meanwhile, a lack of clear policy regarding migration has potentially put refugees and migrants at new risk of mistreatment and violence.
Tunisia is quickly replacing Libya as the primary route for refugees and migrants hoping to reach Europe. Currently, over 9,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are registered with UNHCR in Tunisia, originating mainly from the Middle East, sub-Sahara, and Africa’s horn, although this number is much higher as many remain unregistered.
It is also important to note the European Union’s role in all of this. Tunisia has been receiving millions of euros from the EU to ‘manage migration’. Over the years, the EU-backed Tunisian Coast Guard has intercepted or rescued tens of thousands of EU-bound asylum and migrants at sea, many of whom have left Libya. However, the country still does not have a clear migration policy and has not adopted a law on asylum and refugees.
Tunisia’s absence of an official migration policy and asylum law means that these people often have no way to seek protection or obtain legal status. This affects their ability to access shelter and healthcare, legal documentation, livelihood opportunities, education and exclusion from their surrounding environment. Abusive smuggling practices and trafficking are also key concerns. The shelters that do exist face a magnitude of issues from overcrowding, lack of sanitation, respiratory problems due to mold and outbreaks of scabies.
In Tunis, with the support of our partners, the La Goulette Reception, Care and Orientation Center (CASO) opened its doors a year ago.
CASO is a safe space that welcomes migrants and Tunisians without access to healthcare and where we offers medical-psycho-social care and referral to more specialized services in Tunis.
Since its opening in July 2022 to last December, 526 people have already benefited from various consultations: 52% women (276) and 48% men (250), including 45 accompanied minors and 17 unaccompanied minors.
While 20% are Tunisian, most of the people who have pushed open the center’s doors are migrants (80%), mainly from Ivory Coast, but also from Cameroon, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Most of the center’s patients live in individual or shared accommodation, often in precarious conditions, while 5% stay with friends or family and 10% are homeless. Only 6% are housed by associations or organizations. In addition to housing and accommodation, reintegration into the healthcare system is essential, as 56% of these people have no medical cover.
Alongside providing care, Doctors of the World also seeks to advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants in Tunisia. We organize training to improve the reception of migrants in public health structures and we have undertaken advocacy with the authorities and raising awareness among the general public, so that respect for the rights of migrants is anchored in Tunisian society.
© Ager Oueslati
©Médecins du Monde/Kristof Vadino