Tunisia’s cross-border trade hit by Libyan troubles
There is huge uncertainty in North Africa, with Libya in particular descending into chaos. But neighbouring countries are affected too. Al Jazeera has found that the situation along the 1,000 kilometre border between Libya and Tunisia has deteriorated since the latter’s government imposed an export tax of around $15 upon travellers moving goods through land border crossings.
Libyans used to cross regularly, now they simply do not come, though the borders technically remain open, and it’s not just because of the new tariffs. Reacting to a declaration from the World Bank that illegal cross border trade is costing Tunisia more than $600 million per year, the government decided to clamp down. The tax is one response, however the mounting insecurity within Libya is also a major factor. The entire border area has been declared a military zone and the army has been deployed to stop weapons or fighters getting into the country.
However this is impacting living standards in the area, particularly among young Tunisians. What the government regards as smuggling is seen locally as a legitimate traditional trading activity, one that gains them a subsistence but not much more. The situation has hit young people particularly hard in an area where economic development is close to stagnant. Though none are thought to have succumbed as yet, the likelihood is that unemployed men will be driven to join militant groups in the area, including ISIS.
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