While researching our North Africa presentation for last Friday, I read a lot about the issue of smuggling in North Africa. My paper is on the narcotics trade in North Africa, but I didn’t know the full extent of smuggling in North Africa until I started to research Libya. I read this article in my research from the Carnegie Peace Endowment: https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/08/21/tunisian-libyan-border-security-aspirations-and-socioeconomic-realities-pub-77087
While thinking of illegal border activities and smuggling, I first thought of obvious narcotics or people smuggling operations. I never even considered that more normal goods were being smuggled. It never occurred that things like cigarettes, fuel, or other “consumer goods” would be smuggled so much across borders. Learning that around half of Libyan money is made from “informal” methods was a surprise to me, although maybe it shouldn’t have been. You always here about the situation in Libya on the news, but it is usually focused on things like terrorism. When doing further research and thinking about it more, it makes sense that a lot of business in Libya is conducted illegally. It is a failed state, where the west backed central government holds little territory and the rest of the country is being fought over by many different factions. The Libyan borders were already a hot spot for illegal smuggling before the civil war just because the borders are long stretches of desert with little people living there, making them hard to police. With the civil war, smuggling has become more encouraged. Different groups control different sections of the border and often make a profit from the illegal smuggling there because it makes more money than legal economic activities.
Here is a map of who controls what in Libya as of July 19, 2018. It really puts into perspective the instability of the country, and how control of the borders would help one group in power gain over another. You can see the long sections of the yellow or mixed/unclear control to see that much of the border is contested for obvious reasons. Those reasons being that the border is so important and constantly being fought over, or also because little people live there so it is unclear who controls the area.