[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

TUNISIA (Tier 2 Watch List)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Tunisia is a source, destination, and possible transit country for small numbers of men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Several Tunisian trafficking victims were identified during the reporting period in foreign locations; two women were rescued from forced prostitution in Jordan and three men from forced labor in Italy. Some Tunisian girls are trafficked within the country for domestic servitude. A 2008 survey of 130 domestic workers in the Greater Tunis region found that 52 percent were under the age of 16; twenty-three percent claimed to be victims of physical violence, and 11 percent of sexual violence. Ninety-nine percent indicated they had no work contracts and the majority received salaries below the minimum wage. These conditions are indicators of possible forced labor. In 2007, three Ukrainians were identified as having been trafficked to Tunisia for work in hotels and commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of Tunisia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these significant overall efforts, including the conviction and sentencing of a trafficking offender and the signing of a cooperative agreement with Italy on trafficking and illegal migration, the government did not show evidence of progress in proactively identifying or protecting trafficking victims or raising public awareness of human trafficking over the last year; therefore, Tunisia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Human trafficking is not perceived to be a problem in Tunisia; it is possible that victims of trafficking remain undetected because of a lack of effort to identify them among vulnerable groups.

Recommendations for Tunisia: Utilize 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; draft and enact legislation that prohibits and adequately punishes all forms of human trafficking; and institute a formal victim identification mechanism to identify and refer trafficking victims to protection services.

The Government of Tunisia made limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period; one known trafficking offender was brought to justice. Tunisian laws do not specifically prohibit human trafficking, though trafficking offenders could be prosecuted under several laws that prohibit specific forms of trafficking in persons. The Penal Code prescribes 10 years’ imprisonment for capturing, detaining, or sequestering a person for forced labor; one to two years’ imprisonment for forced child begging, and up to five years’ imprisonment for forced prostitution of women and children. The penalty for forced prostitution – five years’ imprisonment – is sufficiently stringent, though not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave offenses, such as rape. In April 2009, a Tunis court convicted and sentenced a Tunisian woman to three years’ imprisonment under Article 218 of the penal code (violence with premeditation) for subjecting to domestic servitude and physically abusing a seven-year old girl. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad is responsible investigating violations of the labor code and conducted approximately 30,000 labor inspections in 2008; it reported no known cases of forced labor or exploitative child labor to Tunisian courts in 2008. There is no evidence that the government provided anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials in 2008. There is no evidence of official tolerance of or complicity in trafficking in persons.

While the government did not provide protection services specifically for trafficking victims during the reporting period, women’s organizations provided services to at-risk groups of women and children with government support. While the government does not operate care facilities for crime victims, its social workers provided direct assistance to abused women and children in two shelters operated by a local NGO; these shelters could provide assistance to trafficking victims. The government encouraged the victim in the aforementioned legal case to testify against her trafficker during the court proceedings and provided her with medical care. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Family, Children, and Elderly Persons employed a child protection delegate in each of Tunisia’s 24 districts to intervene in cases of sexual, economic, or criminal exploitation of children; these delegates ensured that child sexual abuse victims received adequate medical care and counseling and could potentially advocate for service provision for child victims of labor and sex trafficking. The government lacked formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as illegal migrants and those arrested for prostitution. As a result, trafficking victims, when not identified, may be vulnerable to deportation or other punishment if caught engaging in illegal acts under Tunisian law. The government does not provide trafficking victims legal alternatives against removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

The government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period; there were no government campaigns to raise public awareness of trafficking or to reduce demand for commercial sex acts, but a government-sanctioned NGO hosted a symposium in December 2008 that raised awareness about exploitation of women, particularly domestic workers, in the workplace. The government monitored its borders closely to interdict smuggling rings and illegal immigration, but did not systematically screen for trafficking victims among illegal migrants. In January 2009, Tunisia and Italy agreed to strengthen their cooperation to combat illegal immigration and human trafficking The government did not take any significant measures during the reporting period to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Information was unavailable regarding specific measures adopted by the government to ensure its nationals deployed to peacekeeping missions do not facilitate or engage in human trafficking; members of the military, however, received training on international human rights standards, which included human trafficking, as part of their 200 hours of required coursework.