While the Tunisian government has taken several steps to protect prison populations, the GDP has been unable to find any reports indicating that authorities have adopted measures to assist migrants and asylum seekers, including those in detention. Instead, on 24 March it was reported that migrants continued to be placed in Ben Guerdane and Al Wardia detention facilities, where already poor sanitary facilities are now facing even greater strains. Migrants and asylum seekers also report a lack of prevention advice in languages they can understand.
Several steps have been taken concerning prisons. On 12 March 2020, the “Direction Générale des prisons et de la rééducation” (DGPR) announced several preventive measures to mitigate the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak within Tunisian criminal prisons, including sterilisation operations, the acquisition of thermal cameras, and the creation of isolation cells. Newly arrived detainees now undergo a full medical examination before being placed in their cell. In addition, visits have been suspended and the sending of food baskets prepared by families is now restricted. The Minister of Justice, Thouraya Jeribi, visited a women’s prison on 19 March 2020 to ensure that all measures were being followed.
On 19 March 2020, the Tunisian president, Kais Saied, called on the Special Pardon Committee to study the possibility of releasing certain detainees in order to “ease the pressure on prisons.” Similarly, on 20 March 2020 the President announced the granting of special pardons to coincide with the 64th anniversary of the country’s independence: 670 prisoners would be released, while others would benefit from reduced sentences.
Civil society organisations have also called for the government to reduce the prison population in order to avoid any risk of contamination of prisoners. A letter signed by 15 Tunisian human rights organisations on 19 March 2020 requests a “drastic reduction in the number of people detained” so as to control the spread of Covid-19. The letter suggests the multiplication of parole and the maintenance of links between detainees and their families while respecting health protection measures.
- F. Dahmani, “En Tunisie, les migrants subsahariens démunis face à la pandémie de coronavirus,” Jeune Afrique, 24 March 2020, www.jeuneafrique.com/915161/societe/en-tunisie-les-migrants-subsahariens-demunis-face-a-la-pandemie-de-coronavirus/
- Kapitalis, “Coronavirus: Stérilisation et autres mesures préventives dans les prisons Tunisiennes,” 13 March 2020, https://tinyurl.com/whgembe
- S. Mourad, “Tunisie: Kais Saied appelle à alléger les prisons en raison de l’épidémie du coronavirus et accorde une grâce à 1856 détenus,” Tunisie Numérique, 19 March 2020, www.tunisienumerique.com/tunisie-kais-saied-appelle-a-alleger-les-prisons-en-raison-de-lepidemie-du-coronavirus-et-accorde-une-grace-a-1856-detenus/
- Business News, “Grâce présidentielle pour 1856 détenus et désinfections des prisons,” 19 March 2020, www.businessnews.com.tn/grace-presidentielle-pour-1856-detenus-et-desinfection-des-prisons,520,96373,3
- Association des Magistrats Tunisiens, et al. “Appel à la réduction de la population carcérale face à la pandémie du Covid-19,” 19 March 2020, https://tinyurl.com/rx92ufb
- Global Detention Project, Immigration Detention in Tunisia, www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/africa/tunisia