By Libya Herald staff.
Tunis, 10 April 2015:
Some Libyans are being forced to pay bribes to cross the border into Tunisia at . . .[restrict]Ras Jedir, according to several travellers who have experienced problems at the western border post this week.
One woman was told her car’s paperwork was incorrect and was ordered to pay LD 500 to Libyan border guards to be able to drive out of the country. After the ordeal, she described spending five hours negotiating with the men, whom she said were masked and armed, before eventually being allowed to pass through.
Other Libyans say they have been targeted depending on their hometown in Libya. Mohamed, from Derna, told the Libya Herald he was stopped for two hours and quizzed. Not wanting to wait any longer for what threatened to be lengthy verification processes for his documents, he paid LD 150 – after negotiating the price down – to get his passport stamped and proceed towards Tunisian passport control.
A Benghazi resident, Muftah, said he was detained at the border by what he described as a militia, and pressurised into paying LD 200. As a resident from Benghazi’s Leithi district, currently the scene of fierce clashes between Libyan National Army (LNA) and rebel forces including Ansar Al-Sharia-affiliated fighters, he said he felt he was targeted as a potential supporter of the Beida-based government.
Other travellers, however, both Libyans and foreigners, have continued to cross the border in both directions without experiencing any such problems.
Although the border is monitored by official border guards, since the Revolution loose control has been held by local brigades from the nearby Amazigh town of Zuwara. When Libya Dawn took control of Tripoli in August, fighters from Zuwara aligned themselves with the movement.
However, most Libya Dawn fighters have reportedly not received their salaries for the last three months, while the Tripoli government attempts to activate a system of paying salaries based on national ID numbers.
One regular traveller said it was widely-known in the local area that Tunisian fuel smugglers continued to bribe local brigades to turn a blind eye to them carrying fuel from Libya to Tunisia, where petrol is much higher in price.
Reports have been circulating on social media that the authorities in Tripoli were planning to close the Tunisian border crossings at Ras Jedir and further south at Wazin. This was said to be because of Tunisia’s support for the government in Beida as well as allegations of Tunisian border guards mistreating Libyans. These reports have been denied by a Libyan border official. Speaking to the pro-Libya Dawn, Tripoli-based offices of the Libyan news agency LANA yesterday, he said that traffic was moving normally in both directions an that he had not received any notification from the authorities regarding any changes.
LANA was the first to report the proposal over a week ago. An official from the Tripoli-based administration confirmed that such a proposal had been aired but said it had been quickly dismissed.