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Protesters in southern Tunisia demand jobs, development

April 11, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Residents of Tunisia’s southern Tataouine province on Tuesday staged a general strike to demand employment in the province’s oilfields and the development of the region in general.

Tuesday’s strike, which was not supported by any of the country’s political parties or labour unions, reportedly paralysed public and private institutions in the province, which is home to some 150,000 people.

Thousands took part in a demonstration held at Tatouine city’s central People’s Square to demand employment by the foreign energy firms now operating in oil-rich southern Tunisia.

“Our main demand is for employment,” protest organiser Anwar al-Shutwi told Anadolu Agency, adding that many of Tatouine’s young people had participated in Tuesday’s strike.

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Commenting on recent promises by the government to promote the region’s development, al-Shutwi said: “We don’t want to wait another five years for the government’s promises to materialise.”

Ayoub Boukhmash, another protester, told Anadolu Agency: “I used to work for the oil companies. Now I find myself unemployed, like many other local residents who have degrees and good qualifications.”

He added: “We are simply asking the authorities to provide us with opportunities so that we might gain experience in the field.”

On Monday, the government announced a raft of measures aimed at quelling discontent in the region.

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Measures included the immediate employment of 500 Tatouine residents by state companies and a quota system by which oil firms would be obliged to hire most of their employees from among the local population.

In recent weeks, Tatouine has seen on-again, off again demonstrations by residents to demand job opportunities and local development.

In some cases, protesters blocked roads and impeded the movement of vehicles involved in oil and gas exploration.

Last September, a new oilfield was discovered south of Tatouine city by Italian energy giant Eni.

According to Tunisia’s official statistical agency, unemployment in Tunisia stood at some 15.5 percent in the last quarter of 2016.