TunisiaAlthough seen as the most successful Arab Spring country in terms of democratic change, Tunisia is struggling with many of the same political, social and economic grievances as before the Jasmine revolution of 2011.
As a transit and destination country for migrants and refugees, Tunisia recently faced a significant increase in refugees and migrants’ referrals, a large majority of them transiting through Libya. Some tries to reach Europe, but others seek to stay in Tunisia. Tunisia is also a country of origin as Tunisians accounted for the top nationality of arrivals in Italy in 2018.
Incoming migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers predominantly move through the governorate of Medenine, in the South, where there is a strong link between fragility, conflict, violence and border security. Protection issues among these migrants include access to legal documentation, access to livelihoods opportunities, access to education and exclusion from their surrounding environment. Without adequate protection, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Tunisia are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuses. Abusive smuggling practices and trafficking are key concerns, especially in the Libyan/Tunisian borderlands.
The growth of extremist groups in Tunisia, and in the area of Kasserine in particular, is another important feature of post-revolution society. Some of them have been implicated in a number of violent conflicts across the country and represent a serious danger as seen during the latest suicide attacks in Tunis and Sousse in 2015.
Providing emergency response
As part of an integrated Tunisia/ Libya programme, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) started working in Tunisia in March 2011 concentrating on providing a range of services to third-country nationals who were asylum seekers in Libya and who escaped conflict and persecution during the Libyan Revolution by crossing into Tunisia. As most refugees were granted resettlement to countries including the USA, Canada and Germany, the number of people living in Shousha camp dwindled and the camp was officially closed in mid-2013.
Building safer communities
In 2014, DRC returned to Tunisia through the Danish Demining Group (DDG), a specialist unit within DRC which aims to protect communities by reducing weapons-related risks, and through efforts to reduce armed violence. DDG initiated a pilot project under UK Conflict Pool funding to foster trust between border authorities/national police and disaffected youth in the vulnerable border areas of Ben Guerdane and Dehiba at the Libyan border. Focusing on community safety, community police dialogue and conflict management education, such dialogue and cooperation foras served as a platform to increase overall understanding between the security providers and the population.
Throughout 2016-2018, DDG conducted conflict management and youth resilience activities in the Tunisian border towns, with support from the EU and Canada, that have aimed to enhance community conflict analysis, and promote safe spaces and skills for dialogue. In early 2018, DDG expanded the programming into the Libyan sister cities of Zuwara, Nalut, and Wazin, seeking to address border management holistically. As a result, DDG has succeeded in establishing Conflict Management Committees (CMCs) in each town, as well as opportunities for exchange and joint, cross-border conflict management initiatives that are contributing to preventing violence, increasing the stabilization of the border and contributing to safer communities.
Mixed Migration Centre
Since 2017, the Mixed Migration Centre, through its flagship project the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4MI), has conducted research on the needs of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in North Africa. In Tunisia, the Mixed Migration Centre has deployed 4Mi in Medenine, Sfax and Tunis governorates. Key findings from MMC’s research and 4Mi data are used to inform DRC-Tunisia’s programming as well as the broader humanitarian community.
DRC-DDG CURRENT PROGRAMMING
After closing its operations in 2018, DRC-DDG reestablished its activities in Southern Tunisia in June 2019 through:
- an emergency and protection response (funded by the Danish International Development Agency – DANIDA) designed to assist vulnerable displaced in the Medenine Governorate, and
- a multi-year cross border project for violence prevention along the Tunisia-Libya border, which is phase two of the safer communities’ approach, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Netherlands that builds on previous results
DRC-DDG is currently finalizing its 2020 strategy for Tunisia and will strive to develop and strengthen its current partnerships, as well as engaging in new ones, pursuing its the objective of better assisting vulnerable populations, displaced or at risk of displacement, within the country, of protecting their rights and of empowering them towards a better future.