Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

TUNISIA: Tier 2 Watch List

Tunisia is a source, destination, and possible transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. According to a baseline study conducted in 2012, Tunisian youth are subjected to various forms of trafficking which appear to be consistent with previously reported patterns. According to the study, Tunisian girls, mainly from the northwest, work as domestic servants for wealthy families in Tunis and major coastal cities. Some child domestic workers experience restrictions on movement, physical and psychological violence, and sexual abuse. International organizations have reported an increased presence of street children and rural children working to support their families in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution; according to the baseline study, these children are vulnerable to forced labor or sex trafficking. Tunisian women have reportedly been forced into prostitution under false promises of work both within the country and elsewhere in the region, such as Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. Women from West and East Africa may be subjected to forced labor as domestic workers. Migrants fleeing unrest in neighboring countries continue to be vulnerable to trafficking. Security officials report organized gangs force street children to serve as thieves and beggars and to transport drugs.

The Government of Tunisia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Tunisia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Tunisia was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. Parliament did not pass draft anti-trafficking legislation. The government reported investigating potential trafficking crimes in 2014 and using existing laws to prosecute trafficking offenders for crimes related to trafficking. It did not, however, provide precise data on the number of convictions or the length of sentencing. The government did not fully implement victim identification guidelines and the national referral mechanism. In a positive change from the previous reporting period, in 2014 the government identified trafficking victims and provided them protection services, including shelter, dedicated specifically for such victims.


Urgently enact anti-trafficking legislation that prohibits and adequately punishes all forms of human trafficking consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; in the absence of a new law, use existing criminal statutes to prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish offenders with imprisonment; implement and utilize formal procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as street children, undocumented migrants, girls and women in domestic service, and persons in prostitution; provide adequate protection services, including shelter, for all trafficking victims as distinct from other vulnerable groups, and expand efforts to ensure shelter staff are appropriately trained to provide trafficking victims with specialized care; fully implement the national victim referral mechanism to ensure all trafficking victims can access protection services; ensure victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, such as prostitution or immigration violations; continue to conduct anti-trafficking trainings for all officials; and continue to implement anti-trafficking awareness campaigns.


The government demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The absence of an anti-trafficking law hindered law enforcement efforts, including data collection and case management, and contributed to the government’s inability to differentiate between human trafficking and human smuggling crimes. In various disparate statutes, Tunisia’s penal code prohibits some forms of human trafficking but prescribes penalties that are not sufficiently stringent or commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The penal code prescribes only one to two years’ imprisonment for forced child begging and 10 years’ imprisonment for capturing, detaining, or sequestering a person for forced labor. The penal code prescribes five years’ imprisonment for forced prostitution of women and children, whereas the penalties prescribed for rape range from five years’ imprisonment to the death penalty. The government did not report data on prosecutions and convictions of human trafficking offenders, though it reported data on trafficking-related crimes, such as begging, prostitution, and labor violations. Tunisian authorities reportedly investigated 25 potential trafficking cases involving 59 victims in 2014. In May 2014, in partnership with an international organization, the government organized an anti-trafficking conference for Tunisian officials and experts from governments in the region and international organizations. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.


The government demonstrated some progress in its victim identification and protection efforts. Judicial police reportedly identified 59 trafficking victims, and the Ministry of Social Affairs (MSA) provided protection services to 24 victims in 2014—an improvement from 2013 when the government did not identify or protect any trafficking victims. In February 2015, three MSA-operated social centers for vulnerable populations in Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax began providing facilities specifically dedicated to trafficking victims with trained personnel. These centers were available to all trafficking victims regardless of nationality and gender. The center in Tunis held a dedicated office for male and female trafficking victims with a trained social worker and offered medical and psychological exams; it provided services to 24 trafficking victims from April 2014 to February 2015. Additionally, under the auspices of the MSA and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the government continued to operate several centers providing services to vulnerable groups, including both foreign and domestic trafficking victims. These centers provided various services, such as shelter, clothing, psychological services, drug rehabilitation, pro bono legal aid, and free medical care through to the Ministry of Health. The government continued to provide shelter, counseling, medical aid, and financial assistance to repatriated Tunisians; however, it is unclear how many Tunisian victims benefited from these services in 2014.

The government did not fully implement its national victim referral mechanism, developed in 2013, to refer trafficking victims to social centers managed by the MSA or NGO-run shelters that focused on other vulnerable groups. While the mechanism was employed by officials in some instances, it was not utilized by all relevant ministries. Throughout the reporting period, the government provided training to law enforcement, immigration, and social services officials to identify trafficking victims among high-risk populations. Despite this training, the government did not implement systematic policies and procedures to protect unidentified victims from punishment as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as women or children in prostitution or illegal immigrants. The government reportedly offered temporary residency status and repatriation services—in coordination with international organizations—to foreign trafficking victims, although it was unclear how many victims were provided this service in 2014. The government did not have any policies in place to encourage victims to participate in the prosecution of their traffickers, nor did it offer foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face hardship or retribution.


The government made some progress to prevent trafficking. The inter-ministerial anti-trafficking working group began meeting monthly in 2014 to coordinate anti-trafficking policy, with representation from civil society and international organizations. In early 2015, the working group drafted a national anti-trafficking action plan outlining proposed efforts to raise awareness, build institutional capacity and train officials, enact draft anti-trafficking legislation, and improve victim protection measures. To prevent fraudulent labor recruitment practices, the Ministry of Professional Training and Employment (MOPTE) ordered 24 unauthorized recruitment bureaus to formally register with the ministry. MOPTE officials also conducted a public awareness campaign during the reporting period to warn job seekers about the risks of dealing with unauthorized recruitment bureaus. In 2014, MOPTE formally requested the Ministry of Interior close and file lawsuits against 15 recruitment agencies for failing to comply with labor regulations and other infractions, such as providing misleading information to applicants, extortion, and fraud. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.