All UNHCR and partners’ services and activities are free of charge. Any given information to UNHCR is confidential and will not be shared with anyone without your consent.
What is UNHCR?
The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) is the UN agency in charge of supporting and protecting refugees and asylum seekers. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his/her home country and has a well-founded fear of persecution. Refugees cannot return home or are afraid to do so. A person registering with UNHCR is considered as an asylum seeker until recognised as a refugee by UNHCR once their claim has been evaluated.
What does UNHCR do?
UNHCR assesses the situation of persons seeking asylum and, depending on their needs and status, may support them with certain services. Registration, counselling, and refugee status determination are the main interventions conducted by UNHCR. With the support of partner organizations, the Tunisian Refugee Council (CTR), the Arab Institute for Human Rights (IADH) and the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (TAMSS), UNHCR provides other services to persons of concern (PoCs) including financial assistance, psychosocial support, legal assistance and livelihoods, as well as provides support in helping PoCs access healthcare and education. All services provided to POCs are temporary and based on their vulnerabilities and specific needs.
What is a refugee? What is an asylum-seeker?
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. Such a person may be called an asylum seeker until recognized as refugee by UNHCR after his/her claim has been evaluated.
What should I do to seek asylum in Tunisia?
As a first step, you need to approach UNHCR partner Tunisian Council for Refugees (CTR). CTR offices are opened Monday to Friday from: 9 am until 5 pm; 9, rue Abdelhamid Ibn Bedis – 1002 – Tunis to schedule an appointment for pre-registration. Appointments for the pre-registration may only be scheduled in-person, unless you are unable to reach CTR premises, in which case you should call the CTR helpline number: 58 574 595. You will be given an appointment slip to return for an information session and pre-registration appointment.
Once you reach CTR for pre-registration, an information session will be conducted with you and a group of asylum seekers in order to facilitate your referral for a registration interview with UNHCR and/or to another relevant organisation which can provide you with further support. You will fill a registration form that includes sections on your personal profile and vulnerabilities, displacement process, situation in Tunisia, and fear of return to your country of origin, if applicable. Afterwards you will be referred to UNHCR for a registration interview and further support. Asylum seekers should then present themselves to their registration interview at the determined date with all members of their household and bring with them all documents relevant to their family.
How long does it take to register with UNHCR?
Note that you may have to wait for several months in order to be interviewed. Do not worry as the persons in charge of the interviews knows about your case. You should also know that some cases might be interviewed before you, due to urgent needs. UNHCR is well informed about the situation of every individual, we will be doing our best to support you and conduct the needed follow up.
In the meantime, if you are a woman or child at risk, an LGBTIQ+ person, if you or a family member have a severe disability, survived violence, if you are elderly or you have any other specific needs which require urgent consideration, please bring your concerns to the attention of CTR staff. Our partners have a team of specialized
social workers and psychologists who can assist you. Your situation will be treated with respect and confidentiality. Once registered, you will receive a temporary registration card issued by UNHCR, valid for one year, which will facilitate your movements and access to services. Always keep your card with you.
What is Refugee Status Determination (RSD)?
Following your registration with UNHCR, you will be contacted for a specific interview to gather more information about your asylum application. You will be provided with an appointment to be interviewed. This will be your main opportunity to explain the reasons why you left your country and to share with UNHCR any important information about your experiences in your country of origin. The interview might be conducted with the support of an interpreter if needed. Following the interview, a decision will be taken by UNHCR on your status and you will be notified accordingly.
Applying for asylum in Tunisia is to request protection within Tunisian territories, and it is not a process for travelling. Note that seeking asylum is not a guarantee to receiving refugee status. You can either be recognised as a refugee or your application may be rejected, in which case you have the right to make an appeal within a period of 30 days. Once you are granted refugee status you will be provided with a refugee card valid for 2 years.
How much time will it take to conduct an RSD interview and receive the feedback from UNHCR?
You may have to wait for several months to a year in order to be interviewed and provided with feedback on your RSD interview. We understand this is not easy for you, but do not worry, the persons in charge of the interviews know about your case and about the other persons of concerns. Also, you should know that some persons might be interviewed before due to urgent needs. You need to keep in mind that this is a process which requires time before and after the interview. Once decided, you will be notified whether you are recognized as refugee or not and you will be given the right to appeal if not.
Can persons in detention seek asylum?
Detainees have the right to seek asylum too. Individuals in detention need to write a letter to the designated personnel at the “Direction des Frontières et des Etrangers”. Their request will be shared with UNHCR focal points in charge of asylum seekers in detention. A Registration interview will be granted in due time.
I am a Libyan national. Can I seek asylum?
Most Libyan nationals in Tunisia are able to enjoy a favourable de facto protection environment with unimpeded access to rights. Due to this protection environment, most Libyans in Tunisia are not considered for asylum. It is possible for some categories of Libyan nationals, however, to seek asylum, in particular those who are at particular risk in Tunisia. If you wish to ask for asylum, you are advised to approach CTR, following the steps to seeking asylum above, for counselling and a referral to UNHCR registration, where relevant.
What happens if I was not recognized as Refugee?
- Option 1: Returning to your home country. This is a voluntary decision, once you take it, the international Organization for Migration (IOM) will support with the procedures and needed documentation. If you want to return to your country of origin and you are not registered yet, please approach IOM staff or its partners directly. If you want to return to your home country after you register with UNHCR, approach any of UNHCR/partners for further support.
- Option 2: Staying in Tunisia without opting for voluntary return or seeking asylum. You will be under the Tunisian law related to foreigners. Please note that you will need to regularize your stay in Tunisia in order to have a legal residency and a work permit.
Does UNHCR Tunis support with accommodation?
UNHCR does not provide shelters in Tunis. The only option you have is finding an apartment in urban areas. UNHCR might exceptionally support you with rent assistance depending on your status (asylum seeker/refugee) and your vulnerability, and this, for a specific period of time.
How can my family and I receive financial assistance?
Following an assessment of your situation conducted through home visits by our partner CTR, you will be informed if you have been found eligible, along with how much and what steps to follow in order to receive this assistance. Financial assistance is exceptional and temporary and is provided only for those found to be most in need. Not all refugees and asylum seekers in Tunis are being supported with financial assistance. UNHCR resources are limited and only the most vulnerable cases are prioritised. For those receiving financial assistance, the period and amount might vary from one person to another.
This is determined on a case by case basis. The financial assistance is transferred through “La Poste” during the second week of each month. Refugees or asylum seekers will be notified accordingly.
Can my family and I receive health assistance?
Yes. Health care services are provided at public hospitals for refugees and asylum seekers. If you have a medical emergency, go to the nearest public hospital in your area. You will need to cover the fees at this stage. The reimbursement of the amount will be granted according to a determined ceiling. Therefore, ensure that you keep the receipts and the doctor prescriptions with you. For medication coverage, make sure the stickers (vignette) of the drugs prescribed are attached to the medical prescription. The Tunisian Refugee Council (CTR) is UNHCR’s partner in charge of healthcare services.
If you face challenges and you need further support in order to access medical services, you may contact CTR on their helpline: 58 574 595. In case of emergency you can call the ambulance on 190.
Can my children go to school in Tunis?
Yes. If your children are aged between 6 and 14 years old, they can access public schools, following a placement test which will indicate if they are eligible to be enrolled. CTR can support your children with the enrolment and and with proof of enrolment (enrolment certificate and presence certificate). Students can also benefit from a one- time education grant.
What type of legal assistance is provided?
Legal counselling and legal representation are being provided by UNHCR partner the Arab Institute for Human Rights (IADH) in order to support refugees and asylum seekers seeking legal assistance. You can contact IADH on 23 452 006. Note that IADH staff dedicate Wednesdays for legal consultation at CTR premises. Book your appointments by contacting: 23 452 006 Ms Nadia Laaraidh.
IADH conducts monthly “know your rights” information sessions. This is an opportunity for both refugees and asylum seekers to learn about their legal rights in Tunisia. If you wish to attend these sessions, contact CTR on their helpline 58 574 595 for registration.
Can you assist me in finding work?
Yes. We are able to help you find a job if you are between the age of 18 and 59 and are a recognised refugee or an asylum seeker. If you have an idea of a micro-project that you would like to establish, or if you’re looking for a job, you can contact UNHCR’s partner Tunisian Association for Management & Social Stability (TAMSS) who will support you in doing so. You can reach TAMSS on their phone number: 25.800.404/21.808.822.
What if I am a woman or child at risk, if I have a severe disability, I survived violence, I am an elderly or I have any other specific needs which requires urgent attention?
If you have specific concerns, please bring them to the attention of UNHCR or Tunisian Council for Refugees (CTR). Your situation will be treated with respect and confidentiality. You can contact CTR hotline 24/7. An assessment of your situation might be conducted, which could include an interview and a home visit, to determine the type and level of support you need.
- Zarzis hotline: 184.108.40.206
- Medenine/Tataouine: 220.127.116.11
- Gabes hotline: 18.104.22.168
- Sfax hotline: 22.214.171.124
You can also visit our Frequently asked questions for quick information about UNHCR in Tunisia, accommodation, financial assistance, education and other helpful services.
- Asylum in Tunisia
- Your rights and duties as a refugee or asylum-seeker
- About UNHCR in Tunisia
- Voluntary return
- Family Reunification