The daredevil drivers smuggling fuel and household goods into Tunisia
Stunt-driving, high-speed chases, wads of money, and vehicles in flames: this is the dangerous world of smuggling in Tunisia. These smugglers risk their lives and liberty to bring fuel, cigarettes and household goods into Tunisia. But they also share their feats online, glorifying this risky and illegal business on TikTok.
These daredevil drivers risk it all to load up pickup trucks with fuel, TVs, household appliances and more. They bring them across the border from neighbouring Libya and Algeria, often playing cat and mouse with police on desert roads.
There are a number of hashtags and accounts on TikTok where the smugglers share their escapades. They use coded language to avoid detection by police, but the videos still get millions of views.
While most of these smugglers keep their identities secret, one of them agreed to speak with us on condition of anonymity.
It's harder than you think to get into this business. I didn't finish high school and I had a family member who was already in the smuggling business. He was the one who got me into it.
Smuggling saved me from being unemployed. I had to work and earn a living. Otherwise how would I support my family?
The smugglers work as a team, usually driving in a convoy of several vehicles. Sometimes one will act as a lookout, warning others of customs and police checkpoints. Other times, a vehicle will sacrifice itself by speeding in order to distract police.
And when something goes wrong, it has to all go up in smoke:
Sometimes a tire blows out on the way, or you have a traffic accident while transporting the goods.
In that case, we'll call a "colleague" and transfer the cans to his truck. If the police show up before your reinforcements arrive, it's best to set the whole vehicle on fire, so that the amount of goods can't be estimated. And leave the scene.