(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Tunisian town, Ben Guerdane, went on strike on Wednesday in protest of Libya’s decision to stop cross-border trade at the Ras Jedir border crossing since April 28.
Ben Guerdane is one of Tunisia’s most impoverished towns and its economy heavily depends on cross-border trade with Libya.
The town’s shops and offices closed in response to the strike call by the UGTT main trade union confederation, reported AFP; and hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the union office.
“They tell us there are contacts (with the Libyan side) but we don’t see anything. We want radical solutions at Ras Jedir. The people are very dissatisfied,” local UGTT official Mohsen Lachiheb told AFP.
Libyan border officials closed Ras Jedir in an attempt to stop the smuggling of fuel and put an end to the repeated attacks and blockade on Libyan travelers crossing the border by disgruntled Tunisians.
Authorities in Libya and Tunisia failed to reach a settlement to reopen the border and last week Libyan officials extended the shutdown of the border.
The Ras Jedir border crossing has been closed several times since 2014 when fighting between various militias led to the formation of two governments vying for power and control of the country.
The two countries share almost 500 kilometres of border, and in February Tunisia finished building a 200 kilometre security barrier along its border with Libya.
In March, Tunisian authorities closed the Ras Jedir border for two weeks in response to terrorist attacks in its territory carried out by Libya’s ISIS militants.
The frequent border closings since Libya’s ongoing conflict has resulted in unrest and rioting in Ben Guerdane, and as recently as Monday, police had to use tear gas in order to disperse hundreds of protesters who are demanding the end of the border closure.
Last Week Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj met in Tripoli and agreed on setting up a bilateral committee tasked with regulating the Ras Jedir border crossing.
Tunisian officials expressed on Wednesday that they were confident that trade at Ras Jedir will resume very soon.