Operation: Opération: Tunisia



Latest update of camps and office locations 21  Nov  2016. By clicking on the icons on the map, additional information is displayed.

Key Figures

2016 end-year results
20 refugees obtained temporary residence permits after applying for residency, after they participated in UNHCR’s livelihood project to enhance employability of refugees and their self-reliance
8 refugees departed to third-countries (3 via resettlement and 5 via alternative pathways, notably private sponsorship)
6 refugees and asylum-seekers voluntarily returned to their home country, with UNHCR’s support
2017 planning figures
100% of asylum-seekers will have access to refugee status determination procedures
100% of primary school-aged children will be enrolled in primary education
100% of people of concern will have access to national primary health care
90 refugee households will receive cash grants
40 people will have formal access to work opportunities

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2016 685
2015 757
2014 1,135


[["Refugees",649],["Asylum-seekers",33],["Others of concern",3]]
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2016 {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"budget":[34.587051058,14.57865026,5.976656858,6.64456048,5.05078387,6.04969731],"expenditure":[11.96921357,8.20016582,4.41008572,3.59359927,3.59924158,null]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"p1":[34.587051058,14.57865026,5.976656858,6.64456048,5.05078387,6.04969731],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"p1":[11.96921357,8.20016582,4.41008572,3.59359927,3.59924158,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017

Working environment

Tunisia maintained a positive attitude towards refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
The asylum law was finalized by the Ministry of Justice in June 2016 and submitted for review to the Office of the Prime Minister.
The delicate socio-economic situation, frequent social protests, especially in southern Tunisia, and national security concerns dominated the political agenda. 

Population trends

  • 649 refugees and 33 asylum-seekers were registered with UNHCR at the end of 2016, with the majority (73 per cent) from Syria. 109 cases (229 ind.) were registered in 2016.
  • Refugees and asylum-seekers were living in urban areas, in particular in Medenine, Sfax, Sousse and Tunis, and governorates.
  • Tunisia is sometimes used a transit country to reach Libya, notably for people coming from sub-Saharan countries for whom a visa for Tunisia is not required.

Achievements and impact

In 2016, UNHCR established an agreement with the Tunisian Post Office to provide cash assistance to vulnerable refugees. This mechanism can be expanded up to 100,000 individuals if required in case of increase of the population of concern.
  • In October 2016, standard operating procedures on rescue at sea were finalized by the main stakeholders and UNHCR and technically approved by Tunisian authorities. This will facilitate a coordinated and predictable response in case of rescue at sea and disembarkation in Tunisia.  
  • UNHCR and the Arab Institute for Human Rights finalised with the support of the Union of Tunisian Journalists a code of conduct on reporting on refugee and asylum issues. This code of conduct will ensure a balanced and professional coverage of refugee and asylum issues and contribute to enhance public support for the objectives of UNHCR operation in Tunisia.
  • UNHCR’s partner, the Arab Institute for Human Rights, is supporting UNHCR’s advocacy efforts for the adoption of a national law on asylum.

Unmet needs

  • The absence of a national protection framework and the current socio-economic situation curtailed efforts to strengthen the legal status of refugees in Tunisia.

Operational context and population trends

Pending the adoption and implementation of an asylum law in Tunisia, UNHCR will continue to be the sole entity conducting refugee status determination (RSD) in Tunisia in 2016. UNHCR will therefore remain focused on ensuring that people of concern are registered, issued with UNHCR certificates, and protected against refoulement. 

Since 2011, UNHCR has supported the drafting of a national asylum law and will remain committed to assisting Tunisian authorities in the finalization of the text. However, measures taken after the attack in November 2015, notably the closure of the border with Libya, have had an adverse effect on the protection space in Tunisia. UNHCR will continue to actively advocate with authorities and other relevant actors to develop a comprehensive national legal framework on asylum as well as secure the protection space in Tunisia. 

In 2016, the number of people of concern to UNHCR is expected to reach almost 2,000, including close to 1,800 refugees mostly from Syria. Boat arrivals will likely constitute a source of new arrivals. In this context of mixed migration, UNHCR will continue to host survivors rescued at sea. To address their needs, psychosocial counselling sessions as well as field visits and counselling by UNHCR staff will be conducted regularly. In addition, the Office will share information on the risks associated with taking the journey by sea, and on other available opportunities and safer choices.

UNHCR will continue to build the capacities of local authorities by training Tunisian immigration officers on protection-sensitive border management, organizing study visits and experts’ assessments, as well as donating technologically-advanced materials and equipment. UNHCR cooperation with Tunisian authorities regarding border management was initiated in 2013, with a view to support the authorities’ plans to reform its border management processes and ensure that international protection considerations are reflected in this regard. 

Efforts are being pursued to identify appropriate durable solutions for refugees in Tunisia, including resettlement where possible. In the absence of a formal legal status for people of concern to UNHCR in Tunisia, local resettlement opportunities remain limited as most refugees lack residence permits and have irregular access to employment. 

Key priorities in 2016

UNHCR’s key strategic priority in 2016 is to support the authorities in developing a comprehensive national protection system that provides refugee and asylum-seekers in Tunisia with a clear legal status. In light of this objective, UNHCR’s activities in 2016 will focus on:
  • Reinforcing and preserving the existing protection space through RSD activities and advocacy;
  • Supporting the development of a national legislation on asylum;
  • Developing the capacity of Tunisian authorities to assume protection and RSD responsibilities once the legislation comes into force; and
  • Enabling refugees to secure a regular income and reduce their dependency on UNHCR’s financial assistance by offering increased self-reliance and livelihood opportunities.
UNHCR works closely with Tunisian authorities, most notably the Tunisian Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Social Affairs, Women’s Affairs, Justice and Land Affairs and Employment. UNHCR in Tunisia is working with four partners: the Tunisian Red Crescent (TRC), Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRT), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and the Arab Institute for Human Rights (IADH).  UNHCR is also cooperating with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Tunisie Terre d’Asile and the Scouts.