The ICRC regional delegation in Tunis
The Tunis regional delegation covers Tunisia, Mauritania and Morocco/Western Sahara. Its main activities include regular visits to people deprived of their freedom in Mauritania and Tunisia; dealing with the humanitarian consequences of the Western Sahara conflict; restoring contact between separated families and promoting international humanitarian law.
Detainees – and their treatment and conditions – remain a central concern for the Tunis-based regional delegation, which has been operating since 1987. ICRC delegates regularly visit people deprived of their freedom, according to its standard operating procedures, and make confidential recommendations to the authorities detailing improvements that may be needed.
In 2010, the ICRC visited some 28,000 detainees in Tunisia and Mauritania and held individual interviews with around 700 of them. Detainees were able to exchange Red Cross messages with their families. The ICRC is also working to secure longer-term benefits for prisoners: in Mauritania the organization supports practical measures to improve their access to clean water and fresh air, while in Tunisia it backs moves by the authorities towards long-term reform of the prison system, addressing the problem of overcrowding in particular.
People living in the countries covered by the delegation are able to maintain contact with relatives detained or interned abroad through Red Cross messages, videoconferences and phone calls. These services are increasingly requested by migrants who have come from elsewhere in Africa in the hope of travelling to Europe. The ICRC also enables people to submit tracing requests for family members whose whereabouts are unknown.
The ICRC maintains a dialogue with the Moroccan authorities and the Polisario Front to try to clarify the fate of people still missing from the 1975-1991 Western Sahara conflict. People disabled during that conflict who are living in the Sarhawi refugee camps in south-western Algeria benefit from the ICRC’s limb-fitting and rehabilitation centre, set up in 2007. The centre, which can produce up to 100 artificial limbs a year, together with orthopaedic appliances, is staffed by local employees trained and supervised by an ICRC technician.
Promotion of international humanitarian law (IHL) and incorporation of treaties into national laws is a priority for the ICRC. The delegation holds courses for such groups as civil servants, judges and diplomats, and invests considerable effort in networking with the media and academic circles. It also maintains relations with the region’s armed forces, to help strengthen their IHL training capacity through workshops, seminars and documentation.
In coordination with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC offers support to the region’s national Red Crescent societies to help them develop their activities, in particular in areas such as IHL promotion and restoring family links.