Rida Soualmiya lives in Tébessa, an Algerian town 16 kilometers from the border with Tunisia.
Oil smuggling is not new in Algeria. There has always been some smuggling of oil drums, even in the east and south of the country. But over the past few months, the situation has become really serious.
At the beginning, smugglers here in eastern Algeria would go to gas stations and fill drums full of petrol. Now, they’re using more sophisticated methods. For example, they’ve got cars with double reservoirs, which they can fill up discreetly. For the most part, these smugglers are young and unemployed Algerians, who want to make a little money. They resell the petrol to middlemen who stock it in warehouses before selling it on the Tunisian border. The price of a litre triples along the way. Petrol that sells for 23 dinars [around 0.20 euros] at the gas pump is resold for 76 dinars [around 0.70 euros] at the border. From there, Tunisians transport the petrol to the Libyan border.
“Thankfully, we can still ride buses”
Petrol smuggling affects daily life in my city: there is less and less traffic and those who do drive spend hours in line at petrol stations. Taxi rides are three times more expensive than they used to be. Thankfully, we can still ride buses – they run on diesel, so the shortage hasn’t affected them.
In an attempt to curb smuggling, authorities have announced that it is now illegal to buy more than 600 dinars’ worth [around 6 euros] of petrol in one visit to the station. But there’s little enforcement. There are no checks at the borders. The state does nothing. Meanwhile, petrol station owners are benefiting from this situation. They don’t much care that their petrol is going into Libya’s cars.”
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira.