With a nascent legal framework for handling trafficking-in-persons (TIP) casework in Tunisia, inconsistent application has created challenges for referral pathways, legal representation, support services, and safe repatriation for survivors. In partnership with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), in 2023ABA ROLI completed a project that built the capacity of Tunisian authorities and multi-disciplinary TIP stakeholders to apply Law No.61 to address survivors’ needs to prosecute TIP cases nationally and cross-nationally. Tunisia’s 2016 Law to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons (Law No. 61) criminalizes sex trafficking and labor trafficking, outlines penalties and fines commensurate with the gravity of the crime and any aggravating circumstances and provides for ample protective measures and assistance for victims of trafficking in persons. While Tunisian Law No. 61 outlines comprehensive and deterrent sex and labor trafficking offenses, and investigations are initiated, they do not result in a high number of prosecutions and convictions as reported in the 2020 U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report. Law No. 61 created the National Committee against Trafficking in Persons (NCTIP), under the purview of the Ministry of Justice to develop a national strategy and establish coordinated mechanisms to identify, care for, and protect victims, as well as prosecute offenders (Art. 44). NCTIP has developed a national curriculum to train anti-TIP stakeholders, is coordinating with other ministries on victim protection, and spearheaded the creation of the new National Referral Mechanism (NRM) that is meant to streamline all stages of the victim referral and assistance process.
One of the major successes of the NCTIP is the creation of the NRM, as mentioned above, which aims to help survivors of TIP to quickly receive referrals to a variety of support services, including legal, psycho-social support, and more. As lawyers are often on the front line of identifying victims of TIP, the program has worked with lawyers to provide training on trauma-informed lawyering. By providing training on specifics, such as interviewing victims of TIP, the program can support access to justice for those in need. The lawyers who have been trained are also capable of serving as victims’ advocates within numerous spaces, including courts and government service providers. Through the NRM, when lawyers identify a victim of TIP, they are able to notify the NCTIP. The NCTIP has the authority to coordinate all efforts in Tunisia related to TIP. All referrals must go through the Commission for services and professionals to be dispatched, and the NRM allows this to be done efficiently. Thanks to the program, lawyers who have been trained are now certified by the commission to represent survivors of trafficking. Finally, in 2022, the program prepared a training for magistrates of the court to share trauma-informed best practices that will better support TIP victims.