Combatting human trafficking: coordination is essential

TunisiaEconomic, social and cultural rightsNews

Tunis, 28 February 2019 – For the victims of human trafficking, Tunisia could be their country of origin or their destination country, or they could be in transit. Since 2016, Tunisia has had a strong legal framework for combatting the phenomenon, but how can effective collaboration between the actors involved be ensured? On 23 January, National Day of the Abolition of Slavery, ASF and the Instance Nationale de Lutte Contre la Traite des Personnes (the national anti-trafficking body) organised an international conference to take stock of the issue.

“To combat trafficking, it is essential that the different actors involved collaborate and coordinate,” explains Zeineb Mrouki, ASF Project Coordinator in Tunisia (photo). “The Instance Nationale de Lutte Contre la Traite des Personnes is responsible for establishing a National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to organise cooperation between governmental agencies and civil society. It should make it possible to identify victims, to signpost them to the appropriate services, and to assist and protect them.”

Ministries, law-enforcement and customs officials, social workers, labour inspectors, child protection officers, civil society, etc. came together to share their experiences of victim referral and to develop recommendations for the establishment of the future NRM.

Two main considerations emerged from the discussions: the need for the actors involved to be trained in the provisions set out in Organic Law No. 2016-61 on preventing and combatting trafficking in persons; and the need for each of the actors to bring their practices into line with the law.

Illegal aliens have, for example, the right to protection when they have been victims of trafficking. More often than not, however, they are expelled from the country by the police without recourse to that protection, because they are not identified and recognised as victims of trafficking. Furthermore, the techniques for investigating and for providing assistance to victims are not suitable for trafficking cases.

Since the law on trafficking came into effect, 780 cases of human trafficking have been recorded. More and more victims are pressing charges. To this day, however, nobody has been convicted of trafficking, either because judges don’t understand the law or because they favour shorter sentences. An appeal is therefore being made to the judges in charge of trafficking cases to use the tools that the law has given them.

“We also appeal to the relevant ministries, such as the Ministry for Health and the Ministry for Women, to implement the provisions of the law,” says Zeineb Mrouki. “Those include free health care and the provision of accommodation for victims.”

On 24 January, the day after the conference, awareness-raising sessions were organised in the city centre in Tunis, to inform the general public about the realities of trafficking and the rights of victims.

The conference and the day of awareness-raising were organised by the Instance Nationale de Lutte Contre la Traite des Personnes and Avocats Sans Frontières, with the participation of the Council of Europe, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Development Programme, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Photos © ASF