On February 21, 2023, Tunisian President Qais Saied stressed during a meeting of Tunisia’s National Security Council the urgency of enforcing the country’s anti-illegal migration laws to quickly curb the influx of irregular migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa to Tunisia.
According to news reports, Saied said that irregular migrants perpetrate a lot of violence and crimes and engage in “unacceptable practices.” Following the president’s statement, Tunisian authorities reportedly arrested nearly 70 migrants over 48 hours for illegally attempting to enter the country.
Tunisia is considered a hub for irregular migrants who travel to Europe by sea. On February 20, 2022, the Tunisian coast guard announced that its forces had rescued 423 irregular migrants in a single night off the Tunisian coast. The migrants had left Tunisia in an attempt to illegally reach Italy. Out of the 423 rescued migrants, 352 were nationals of sub-Saharan African countries, according to Africa News.
Domestic Legislation against Illegal Migration
Tunisia has two pieces of legislation to combat illegal migration: Organic Law No. 7 of March 8, 1968, on the Legal Status of Foreigners in Tunisia and Organic Law No. 6 of 2004 on Passports.
Organic Law No. 1968-7
Law No. 1968-7 regulates the entry and residency of foreigners in the country. It imposes imprisonment for one month to one year and a fine on any person who, directly or indirectly, helps or attempts to facilitate the entry, exit, or stay of irregular migrants in the country. (Law No. 1968-7, art. 25.)
Furthermore, it provides three years of imprisonment to any foreigner who has evaded the execution of a deportation or has been expelled from Tunisia and entered it again without permission from the Tunisian authorities. (Art. 24.)
Finally, a foreigner who enters or leaves Tunisia without a valid travel document and entry visa is punishable by imprisonment for one month to one year and a fine. (Art. 23.)
Organic Law No. 6 of 2004
Organic Law No. 2004-6 amending law No. 40 of 1975 regulates the issuance of the travel documents and entry of foreigners. Article 38 of Organic Law No. 6 of 2004 enhances the penalty for people smuggling by imposing a term of imprisonment of three years and a fine of 8,000 Tunisian dinars (about US$2,700) on any person who guides, arranges, facilitates, aids, mediates, or organizes by any means the illegal entry or exit of a person into or from Tunisia. The illegal entry or exit may be by land, sea, or air.
Additionally, the law punishes anyone who shelters persons entering or leaving Tunisian soil illegally and without permission from the Tunisian authorities with imprisonment for four years and a fine. (Organic Law No. 6 of 2004, art. 39.)
Finally, the law punishes anyone who deliberately transports a person or persons into or out of Tunisia secretly without the permission of the Tunisian authorities with imprisonment for five years and a fine. (Art. 40.)
George Sadek, Law Library of Congress
March 9, 2023
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