Tunisia: A Safe Country?


    Tunisia Safe Country

    Tunisia, arguably, is a relatively safe country, in the major population centres and areas away from the borders with Algeria and Libya. A comparison with France, a modern, Western country considered safe by many for visits and business provides some evidence that Tunisia is indeed a safe enough country to visit and in which to conduct business.

    Key Judgements

    • Tunisia is a relatively safe country to visit and conduct business for Westerners in most areas.
    • Tunisia is still at risk of terror attacks, especially in danger zones further from major cities.

    Looking only at terror attacks in Tunisia, you can see that the last terror incidents in Tunisia in 2019 were a stabbing on 14 October, in which one French national was killed, and two suicide bombings in June, which aside from killing the bombers themselves, killed only one police officer (though wounding several others). Additionally, on 29 October 2018, 20 were killed in a single bombing. Before that, the last major terror attack was in 2015, with the killing of 38 foreign tourists. Though on the face of it, this may appear to be a bad track record, it is a track record that is improving over time, and a track record that does not much differ to that of France.

    In 2019, there have been three terror attacks in France, of which one was a nail bomb attack in a shopping mall. In December 2018 in France, a Christmas Market in Strasbourg was attacked and five were killed, and in July 2016, 84 were killed by a truck driver in Nice. Looking at these numbers, it puts Tunisia’s numbers somewhat into perspective. Major attacks in France have had far higher casualties and been far more indiscriminate than those in Tunisia.

    While attacks in Tunisia are generally directed towards security personnel or Westerners and tourists in specific areas, with few notable exceptions, they are comparatively low in casualties. The tourism business has recovered from the major incidents in the past few years, and has reached new heights, which is also an indication of an improving situation – the security services in Tunisia prioritise tourist areas because it is a key strategic sector for the Tunisian economy.

    Some may argue that the state of emergency in Tunisia means that it is unsafe; Tunisia has been in this state since November 2015. However, France was under a state of emergency for nearly two years, since the 2015 attack in Paris, which killed 130 people. It only ended in 2017, when tough new anti-terror laws were brought in to replace it. Some of the powers given to the police during the state of emergency, such as to search homes and confine individuals without judicial oversight are now permanently legal. A case could therefore be made to say that the state of emergency has not really ended in France, but that it has instead been legislated into a permanent state of emergency. Regardless, it would be unfair to categorise Tunisia as an unsafe country simply because a state of emergency exists there.

    The future of Tunisian security seems reasonably positive.  With conflict winding down in Syria and Iraq, there is, however, potential for foreign fighters of Tunisian extraction to return to their country and cause issues. However, the security services of Tunisia seem highly competent at stopping terror attacks, have the necessary powers as given to them by the state of emergency, and a population that is acutely aware of the importance of the tourism trade for the country’s economy. Couple that with the mostly peaceful democratic presidential elections in 2019, and it seems likely that Tunisia’s security situation will not deteriorate in the near future.

    To be clear, precautions should be taken in Tunisia, especially if travelling far from the major population centres and areas frequented by tourists. However, in comparison to France, where terror attacks can (and are likely to) occur, the level of terror threat in most of Tunisia is not so bad as to preclude travel or business. To paraphrase Sadiq Khan’s unfortunate turn of phrase, terrorism is “part and parcel” of the modern operating environment. It is a risk that should be considered, potentially mitigated, and operated around.

    Image: Imgur (link)

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