The government significantly increased its efforts to identify and provide protection services to trafficking victims and it worked with NGOs to do so. The government lacked formal victim identification procedures and relied on NGOs to identify and provide care to trafficking victims; however, it worked in cooperation with civil society groups to train key law enforcement, judicial, immigration, and social services personnel to identify victims among high-risk populations. During the course of investigations in 2016, the MOI reported identifying 134 trafficking victims, including 46 female sex trafficking victims, six victims of domestic servitude, and 82 child victims of forced begging. This demonstrated a substantially higher number of identified victims than the previous reporting period when the government identified three victims. Based on the 2016 anti-trafficking law, the government developed in 2016 a new national victim referral mechanism for officials to refer trafficking victims to government-operated social centers or NGO-run shelters; it began training officials on its implementation at the end of the reporting period. In 2016, the Ministry of Social Affairs (MSA) signed cooperation agreements with two NGOs to assist those at risk of abuse and exploitation, including trafficking victims; the MSA also organized capacity-building trainings for NGOs on irregular migration patterns and treatment of vulnerable groups, including trafficking victims. Of the victims identified in 2016, the MOI referred for protection services all adult victims to the MSA and all child victims to the Delegation for the Protection of Children at the Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood. The government provided medical and psychological treatment to a 15-year-old child victim of domestic servitude. Among the victims identified by an international organization in 2016, the government provided shelter and health services to 18 victims and provided repatriation assistance to 28 victims.
The MSA continued to operate centers for vulnerable populations, including trafficking victims, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, asylum-seekers, unaccompanied minors, and the homeless. Through these shelters, the government provided vulnerable groups, including trafficking victims, with food, clothing, full and free medical care, and psychological services, as well as legal aid through a network of pro bono lawyers. Four of these centers in Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax had designated areas available for victims of all forms of trafficking and the MSA increased trafficking-specific care available at these shelters; the center in Sfax caters to migrants and refugees, although none of the shelters are dedicated only to trafficking victims. The MSA collaborated with an international organization to assess and improve shelter capacity and services dedicated to trafficking victims. The center in Tunis held a dedicated office for male and female trafficking victims with a trained social worker and offered medical and psychological exams. This center also allowed foreign embassies access to their nationals to provide assistance, including provision of legal documents and repatriation services. During the reporting period, the MSA—in cooperation with an international organization—provided victim identification and protection training to the staff of the Sfax and Sousse shelters.
The government offered foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face hardship or retribution. During the reporting period, the government offered all foreign trafficking victims relief from deportation and, for those who chose to return home, repatriation services. Trafficking victims could not seek legal employment while under temporary residency status. However, in 2016, the government offered permanent residence, which includes the ability to seek employment, to four trafficking victims who chose not to return home. Under the new anti-trafficking law, the government encouraged victims to participate in the prosecution of their traffickers and provided psychological and physical protection services to victims and witnesses of trafficking crimes. The new law institutionalizes the principle that the government should not punish or prosecute trafficking victims. Nevertheless, the government did not implement systematic policies and procedures to protect unidentified victims from being punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as women in prostitution, child sex trafficking victims, or illegal immigrants.