The Tunisian-Libyan border crossings of Ras Jedir and Dhehiba-Wazen have seen a significant increase in the number of Libyan nationals entering Tunisia in the last few days. In the past 24 hours alone, between 10,000 and 12,000 Libyans have entered Tunisia, the highest level in months.
The Dhehiba-Wazen and Ras Jedir border crossings are located in the governorates of Tataouine and Medenine respectively in southeastern Tunisia.
5,000 Libyans passed through Ras Jedir between this past Sunday and yesterday. Dhehiba-Wazen likewise experienced constant traffic of Libyan travelers. The number of Libyans crossing the border there reached 3,850 this past weekend, according to the head of the Tunisian border police at the Dhehiba-Wazen border crossing. In addition, 4,000 Libyan passengers passed through Dhehiba-Wazen yesterday, Tunisian border police in Dhehiba-Wazen noted.
Lines of vehicles could be seen continuing for several kilometers. Khaled Askar, Libyan Lieutenant at the Dhehiba-Wazen border crossing, said that the influx of Libyan nationals crossing into Tunisia had created a backlog and that consequent delays for Libyan entries have occurred due to painstaking procedures of customs control and vehicle searches.
The influx of Libyan nationals to Tunisia in the last four days coincides with the Libyan mid-semester school break. However, Abdurrahman Baghni, head of the Nalut National Guard, pointed to recent tensions in Libya as another explanation for the record number of Libya arrivals. Skirmishes between rival militias in the Zuwara-Jemil-Regdaleen area along the Tunisian border as well as bursts of Gaddafi-loyalist reprisals in the outskirsts of Tripoli and Bani Walid are driving many Libyan families to leave their troubled hometowns.
Map of border areas around Dhehiba-Wazen and Ras Jedir, southeastern Tunisia
“The children are mostly affected psychologically and the school holidays represent an escape for those families to Tunisia. This is, of course, in addition to the usual Libyan medical tourists to Tunisia,” he added.
The Libyan border towns of Zuwara, Jemil and Regdaleen are witnessing an intermittent turf war by local militias over key transit points along the border. However, such tensions have not affected the flow of Libyan travelers through Ras Jedir, according to security forces in the Ras Jedir border crossing.
Houda Mzioudet is a freelance journalist and an academic researcher in Libyan and Tunisian affairs with a particular interest in emerging identities, civil society and humanitarian issues in a conflict context. She contributed to Tunisia Live between 2011 and 2012. Mzioudet co-authored a book (with Megan Bradley and Ibrahim Fraihat) entitled "Libya's Displacement Crisis: Uprooted by Revolution and Civil War"