Magharebia (Washington DC)

18 December 2013

Libya Violence Deters Tunisian Workers

Tunis — Thirty-two-year-old Tunisian Farid Abidi was forced to quit his job at an oil terminal in southern Libya and return home to avoid death.

"Almost no day passes without violence or clashes," he told Magharebia.

"We tried to deal with the situation, but unfortunately we won't be able to, and therefore, we had to leave the place out of fear of radical Islamists' attacks on energy facilities and their attempts to control them," he added.

The new conditions have brought Abidi back to unemployment and need.

"My work was good," he continued. "I had ambitions about starting a family. However, one just doesn't realise all that one wishes. I'm now unemployed and I feel it will take a long time until the country stabilises. This is pushing me towards frustration once again."

The deteriorating security situation in Libya has made many Tunisian workers fear for their personal safety.

The kidnapping of 40 Tunisians by an armed group during the night of December 8th-9th in Zawiya was the latest incident in a series of kidnappings targeting foreign workers in Libya.

"Work had become very difficult," said Mohamed Methnani, a 41-year-old Tunisian who left Libya.

"We had that sense of fear wherever we went. Honestly, I couldn't acclimatise to the new situation, and therefore, I preferred to return to my country and work in the construction sector, despite the low wages here."

For years now, Libya has been providing many job opportunities for Tunisians, and the Tunisian government started depending on the country to cut unemployment at home. The Libyan authorities have previously said they want to hire more than 200,000 Tunisians to contribute to the country's reconstruction.

However, given the lack of stability and continued violence, Tunisians now fear going to Libya, despite their need for work and the financial attractions.

Marouane Belkadhi, 22 and unemployed, was planning to travel to Libya to join his friends and look for work, especially given the lack of opportunities in Tunisia.

But with the rising levels of violence in Libya, he no longer wants to leave his homeland.

"I don't want to risk my own life in Libya," he said. "The security situation there is tough and unsuitable for work. Some of my friends told me about violations committed by some armed militias against Tunisian and foreign workers there, and I don't want to see that happening to me."

Marouane is one of many Tunisian young people who now refuse to go to Libya for work.

"It's true that Libya provides many job opportunities, but at the same time there is growing security chaos there," said Abdeslam Hidri, 24, a native of Jendouba province. "I'm now thinking about immigrating to Europe. I don't have any other option; I just want to work and live in peace."

Tunisians' reluctance to work in Libya is understandable, given the risks, Abdeljalil Badri said. The economics professor noted that Tunisia was one of the most affected countries by the security situation in Libya.

Meanwhile, some jobless young people insist on defying the instability and chaos in order to win work in Libya.

Jamad Edine Dandani, a graduate of economics, justified his insistence by saying that he had no other option, especially since he graduated two years ago and hasn't found a suitable job.

"Some Tunisians have become accustomed to adventures out of need and poverty," he said. "Anyway, the adventure of working in Libya won't be worse than the sense of unemployment I'm living in right now."

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