Five years after the Jasmine Revolution, which saw a massive mobilisation of the Tunisian population against social and economic injustice and the lack of democracy, the political situation has become less tense, even though the media recently reported major disagreements within the ruling Nidaa Tounes Party. The 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections, the first such elections since the fall of Ben Ali, were held peacefully, according to international electoral monitors. The new government was approved by parliament in early February 2015 and is composed of the secular Nidaa Tounes Party and the islamist Ennahda party. The mobilisation of civil society was still high in 2015. In the summer, a bill granting conditional amnesty to authors of economic and financial crimes under Ben Ali and the first post-revolutionary government was strongly criticised by human rights and transitional justice activists. On 10 November 2015, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to four Tunisian civil society organisations for their positive role in the political crisis caused by the assassination in 2013 of two secular politicians, Chokri Belaïd and Mohamed Brahmi. According to analysts however, the unprecedented scale of the terror attacks that hit Tunisia in 2015, their impact on the tourist sector and the economy, the absence of any social and economic improvement in the poorer interior regions, and the disagreements within the Nidaa Tounes Party, could affect political stability in Tunisia.
The security situation has significantly deteriorated in 2015. The ACLED Project noticed that jihadi-related violence has become less frequent but that the number of casualties has never been higher since the start of the 2011 uprising. Not only security services and politicians were targeted but also foreign tourists and Tunisian civilians. 59 foreigners were killed in two terror attacks, on 18 March in Tunis and on 26 June in Sousse. A third major attack killed 12 security personnel in Tunis on 24 November. During the second half of 2015, 3 civilians were also killed in rural areas where jihadi militants are hiding.
The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the three major terror attacks of 2015 in Tunisia. They were carried out by isolated individuals against major tourist and state symbols. IS has no territorial presence in Tunisia but operates from territories it controls in neighbouring Libya and gives logistical support to the perpetrators of terror attacks in Tunisia. The Jund al-Khilafa, a small terrorist group which has claimed the murder of a young shepherd in November 2015, is an emanation of IS, according to the Tunisian authorities. In the rural areas away from the coast, along the border with Algeria, there are regular clashes between government forces and the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade, which is led by Algerian militants and uses the same tactics as AQMI in Algeria. According to press reports, some members of the brigade have pledged allegiance to IS in September 2014.
Following the attacks targeting foreign tourists, the Tunisian authorities deployed 100.000 security personnel throughout the country, with 3.000 specifically deployed on tourist sites. Many arrests took place and the state of emergency has been extended until 21 February 2016. Analysts consider that major reforms should be carried out in the domestic security forces in order to curb corruption, and that a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism should be implemented. According to experts, the fight against terrorism also requires urgent measures to reduce social inequality in the interior of the country.
As in the previous years, demonstrations for social and economic justice were held throughout the country but especially in the interior. The population of Kasserine and Gafsa, two towns in the central western region, denounced major shortcomings regarding infrastructure and employment. In both towns, social protests take place on an almost daily basis as the government is not addressing the demonstrators’ grievances. According to IMF figures, economic growth in Tunisia is only 1% and the unemployment rate reached 15.2% in August 2015 (35% youth unemployment). The attacks in Tunis and Sousse had a major impact on the tourist sector, which is crucial for Tunisia’s economy.
When finalising the present report, social tensions were at their highest since 2011, according to the AFP. Demonstrations broke out in several towns (Sidi Bouzid, Siliana, suburbs of Tunis) after the death by electrocution of a young jobless man on 16 January 2016. The nocturnal curfew which was established in the whole of Tunisia on 22 January 2016 was still in force when finalising the present report.
Among other analysts, Dario Cristiani, Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at the Vesalius College in Brussels, is of the view that desperate social conditions can lead young Tunisians to turn to extremist Islamic movements. Some 5.000 Tunisians are currently fighting in Syria, Iraq, Mali and Libya, according to a US Congressional Report from September 2015. The Tunisian authorities announced in April 2015 that that they had prevented 12.000 Tunisians from leaving the country.
The policy implemented by the Commissioner General is based on a thorough analysis of accurate and up-to-date information on the general situation in the country of origin. This information is collated in a professional manner from various, objective sources, including the EASO, the UNHCR, relevant international human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, professional literature and coverage in the media. When determining policy, the Commissioner General does not only examine the COI Focuses written by Cedoca and published on this website, as these deal with just one aspect of the general situation in the country of origin. The fact that a COI Focus could be out-of-date does not mean that the policy that is being implemented by the Commissioner General is no longer up-to-date.
When assessing an application for asylum, the Commissioner General not only considers the actual situation in the country of origin at the moment of decision-making, he also takes into account the individual situation and personal circumstances of the applicant for international protection. Every asylum application is examined individually. An applicant must comprehensively demonstrate that he has a well-founded fear of persecution or that there is a clear personal risk of serious harm. He cannot, therefore, simply refer back to the general conditions in his country, but must also present concrete, credible and personal facts.
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