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Maghreb smuggling crackdown may trigger border unrest

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Subject

The growing problem of the informal economy in the Maghreb.

Significance

Maghreb governments launched new efforts to fortify borders in 2014, citing the threat of armed militant groups, illegal migrants and contraband smuggling. Algeria deployed 30,000 troops along its 1,000 kilometre (km)-long frontier with Libya, while Morocco built a new fence with electronic sensors along 40km of the Algerian border, with plans to extend the barrier further. Algeria responded with plans for constructing its own fence. Tensions flared in October when Morocco accused Algerian border guards of firing live ammunition across the fence, injuring one Moroccan civilian. In late 2014, Algerian press reported plans for a 120km-long fence along parts of the Libyan border, though the project's progress is unclear.

Impacts

  • Maghreb states will increase defence expenditures for border security and seek to buy more sophisticated military hardware and technology.
  • Tighter border controls will increase prices for smuggled consumer goods such as fuel, food, and medicine for vulnerable populations.
  • Cracking down on smuggling fuel and other consumer goods could strengthen cooperation between smugglers and armed militants.
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