Screenshot of a video taken by our Observer showing an oil refinery.
The Brega region is home to the second largest oil refinery in Libya. Yet despite their proximity to this extremely lucrative industry, local residents live in poverty.
Brega is in the east of Libya, on the Gulf of Sirte, 200 kilometres west of Benghazi. There are five cities in this region, including Marsa El Brega, which has the country’s largest petrochemical port and is where most of the oil tankers depart from. Overall, oil makes up 95% of Libyan exports.
The oil industry was the first industry to bounce back following the revolution. Libya now produces on average 1,789 million barrels of oil per day. Oil revenue accounts for a full three-quarters of the Libyan government’s budget.
“Brega is Libya’s richest region due to the oil industry. And yet its residents are among the poorest”
Moussa el Megherbi teaches English to employees of a company that treats oil in Brega. He put together a short video to denounce the wealth inequalities in his region.
In this piece, our Observer first films Brega’s oil refineries and petrochemical port, after which he interviews local residents (in Arabic) about their very precarious living conditions.
Brega is Libya’s wealthiest region thanks to the oil industry. And yet its residents are among the poorest in Libya.Many here are unemployed. Under [former Libyan leader] Muammar Gaddafi, refineries only hired workers from the capital, Tripoli, or from Sirte, which was Gaddafi’s home base. Nowadays, some local residents from Brega have been hired, but there are still very few.Those employees who come from the western part of Libya get employer-paid housing. These prefabricated houses come fully equipped and furnished. In contrast, the workers from Brega have no such advantages, allegedly because they already live here and have housing.Here, people live in slums. Often, several families live in two or three rooms without running water or electricity.Many houses and shops were destroyed during the war. Gaddafi’s troops were based here during the fighting to protect the oil refineries. As a result, the city was bombed and also saw very violent combat. The destroyed homes were never rebuilt. Some tried to rebuild their houses with whatever materials they could find, but often lacked the means to finish the job.The worst part is that the headquarters of Libya’s national oil company [the National Oil Corporation], which used to be located in Benghazi during the Gaddafi era, was moved to Tripoli following the revolution. The government cannot help marginalized regions to develop if they move everything to the capital.