A protest by unemployed college graduates led to clashes with police on Thursday.
Unemployment is such a major problem for youth in the Tunisian city of Metlaoui that it led to clashes with police last week. In the mineral-rich region of Gafsa, the young and educated can no longer bear the disappointments of endemic unemployment.
Last week, unemployed graduates organized a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the Gafsa Phosphate Company, one of Tunisia’s largest companies, to demand jobs.
Thursday, they organised a protest march that led to clashes with police when some of the protesters tried to block a train carrying phosphate.
Despite being home to one of the world’s largest phosphate deposits, the region’s unemployment rate is more than 40%, according to a study by the Centre for Economic Studies of the Arab Institute of Business Managers. More than 62% of Gafsa college graduates are unemployed.
Photos from the march organised Thursday by unemployed college graduates in the city of Metlaoui.

“The Phosphate Company has not hired a single college graduate in the last three years”

Hamza Jeffel lives in Metlaoui. He received a master’s degree in mathematics in 2007 but is jobless.
We marched in a calm and orderly fashion, but when we arrived at the railroad tracks in the Magroun neighbourhood, a group of youths rushed a phosphate cargo train to block its path and began to throw small rocks at the conductor. The police didn’t make any distinction between the orderly protesters and the unruly youths, they just went after everyone.
The police dispersed protesters in Magroun as some of them tried to block a train from the Phosphate Company.
We organised this march to ask the Phosphate Company and the minerals transportation company to begin recruiting young professionals, because they have not hired a single college graduate in the last three years. These companies have been promising jobs for months, but have not followed through.

In addition, the protesters called for the Gafsa horticultural company to more rapidly announce the results of their recruiting process launched last March to hire 1,200 employees, including 114 college graduates. The Gafsa Wali [governor] announced Thursday on television that the results of this process will be published on July 15. But he did not say when the Gafsa Phosphate Company or the minerals transportation company would start recruiting.
The Gafsa region, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country, has been marginalised since the end of the Ben Ali era. We suggest as a potential and temporary solution that the Phosphate Company carry out its recruiting process at a regional level, as opposed to continuing its practice of recruiting at the national level. We also suggest that a fraction of their profits should be used for regional development. There is only one industry here, and the authorities could use part of these funds to improve infrastructure — repair roads, public lighting, etc. — and invest in order to create jobs.

A delegation of unemployed college graduates have travelled to Tunis to meet with the CEO of the Phosphate Company. We hope these negotiations will be productive.
All photos were published on the Facebook page Metlaoui.