As of 30 June 2020, Tunisia recorded 1,175 confirmed cases of COVID-19; with 50 deaths and 1,038 cases recovered, while 87 cases remained active. Most of the new cases have been detected among people repatriated from abroad. The progressive ease of confinement measures arrived at its last stage, borders between governorates re-opened on 4 June and international borders on 27 June. On 8 June, the night curfew was lifted. UNHCR in-presence activities resumed at 100%, namely registration, refugee status determination (RSD) and resettlement (RST) interviews.
Rescue at sea operations and interception at land/sea continued at a high pace off Tunisian coasts during June. Following the shipwreck occurred on 4 th – 5 th of June off Kerkennah Islands, the Tunisian authorities retrieved the bodies of 61 people from the sea, mostly women and children from sub-Saharan Africa, including one asylum seeker.
The boat allegedly departed from Sfax in the direction of Italy. On 17 June, Tunisian authorities reported to have thwarted 17 attempted departures from Tunisian coasts and arrested 185 people in one single day. On 19 June, 20 third-country nationals (18 from Egypt and 2 from Yemen) have been rescued by the Tunisian coast guard around Kerkennah Islands, off Sfax coast; as their boat went adrift due to bad weather. The boat departed from Zwara in Libya toward Italy. The rescued were placed in quarantine and profiling is scheduled for July, after which, UNHCR will proceed with registration and assistance as needed.
Between the 1st and 11th of June, registration, RSD and RST interviews resumed. Since then, 306 individuals have been registered, 30 RSD cases have been processed, seven individual cases were submitted for resettlement consideration and one urgent case approved. UNHCR reached out to resettlement countries’ embassies to explore the possibility to resume departures as soon as possible for the already approved cases.
UNHCR and its partner Tunisian Refugee Council (CTR) completed the second round of the country-wide verification and assessment exercise (using KoBoToolbox software). The verification exercise aimed to confirm the presence of all persons of concern to UNHCR on Tunisian territory; to collect information on their current socioeconomic and protection situation and to seek consent in sharing basic information with the Tunisian Government for inclusion in national assistance programmes. In total, UNHCR pre-identified 1,670 refugee and asylum seeker households currently not enrolled in any of UNHCR assistance programmes. From this list, 967 households were reached and their needs assessed (60 per cent contact rate). Among the assessed households, 434 declared themselves to be at risk of eviction for lack of rent payment; more than 70 per cent declared not being able to pay for rent, food, medicines and utilities while only 4.4 per cent had regular income. 97 per cent expressed their consent to share basic biodata with the Government.
Based on the verification, UNHCR reinforced its regular cash assistance programme, so to increase social protection of refugees and asylum seekers most affected by the COVID-19 situation. Some 389 single refugees and asylum seekers already enrolled in the assistance programme received a top-up and 170 individuals temporarily enrolled in the assistance programme were extended until the end of the year. Moreover, 1,008 refugees and asylum seekers whose cases are followed by UNHCR but who are not enrolled in the assistance programme, received cash assistance.
To mark World Refugee Day, several activities involving refugees and asylum seekers were organized in all major cities of the country from 18 to 27 June, such as football matches, recreational activities for children, movie shows, painting workshops, but also awareness sessions to sensitize Tunisian citizens to refugee issues. More information on 2020 World Refugee Day activities in Tunisia is available here.
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees