Call to step up protection of migrants and refugees in Tunisia against COVID-19 (Civil Society)
10/04/2020 12:36, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP) - Civil society organisations, MPs and public figures called, on Friday in a joint statement, for stepping up the protection of migrants and refugees in Tunisia against COVID-19, so as to ensure the right to health for all.

The signatories urged the government to devise a national initiative to establish a climate of confidence, reassure these people and formalise their coverage, with a view to ensuring that their right to health is guaranteed in the same way as Tunisian men and women.

These organisations further called on the government to examine the alternatives to the detention of refugees and migrants who are vulnerable to disease and stranded in the El Ouardia and Ben Guerdan centres, given the high risk of falling badly ill or even die in case of infection.

They consider that the exclusion of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers present on the Tunisian territory from the national health system and the exceptional economic aid provided would be an infringement of their fundamental rights and contradict the efforts to contain infection and eradicate the pandemic in the country.

In this regard, they call on the government to shoulder this historic responsibility and provide the conditions for an exceptional regularisation operation for migrants present on the Tunisian territory.

The signatories consider that the measures taken by the government to combat the COVID-19 pandemic are courageous, such as the nationwide lockdown and the provision of emergency social assistance to the most disadvantaged who are violently suffering the consequences of the health, social and economic crisis.

The statement recalls that the Ministers of the Interior, Social Affairs and Human Rights and of Relations with Constitutional Bodies and Civil Society took positive measures in favour of foreigners residing in Tunisia at a meeting on April 7. Visa expiry dates and financial obligations were suspended, financial and in-kind aid would be specifically granted and landlords were formally asked to postpone rent payments for the months of March and April 2020.

"These are positive steps that we encourage and that must be followed by further action to address the issues in a sustainable manner," the statement adds.

The signatories insist on the double vulnerability of these people, often in a situation of social exclusion, living in overcrowded places and deprived today of any source of income, to face the epidemic and the consequences of lockdown.

"To date, despite initiatives by various civil society actors, there is no national plan in Tunisia to specifically inform these communities and direct them to the 24-hour health centres and other preventive services, which are crucial to stem the pandemic throughout Tunisia," the same source adds.

The press release was signed by over 30 national and civil society organisations, including the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Forum of Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH), the Association of Citizenship, Development, Cultures and Migrants of both Shores (CDCMIR), the Euro-Mediterranean Citizenship and Culture Network (REMCC), the Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia (CRLDHT) and others, twenty MPs and twenty public personalities.

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