Chaos on the Libyan border

As thousands of people flee the violence in Libya, there are fears that the exodus could grow to unmanageable proportions if Gaddafi presses close to Benghazi.

    As we work our way through the chaotic main border crossing between Egypt and Libya, a man with a megaphone is surrounded by an anxious melee of hundreds of Bangladeshis.

    They're gripped by his every word. The man is reading out a list of names - the selected few are allowed to board buses for the journey to Alexandria and a flight home.

    They shove and barge their way on board their route to freedom, their bagged and boxed belongings of a life lived in Libya shoved down below.
    The rest remain disappointed. They will be here again tomorrow, and, for most, for days to come. Three thousand five hundred have been processed so far, there are thousands more to come.

    "There are three planes from Alexandria to Dakar every day," said Rana Jaber of the International Organisation for Migration. "It's going to take some time to get all of them home."

    We spoke to a group of Bangladeshis who had worked as cleaners in a hospital in Benghazi.

    They said they had finally had enough and decided to leave when they were offered weapons, including AK47s and small arms, with which to fight.

    It wasn't clear who did the asking, but out of a group of 60 Bangladeshis at the hospital, 45 decided it was time to head for the border.

    "We're continually seeing more people trying to flee Libya - people from Chad, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Mali and Niger," said Rana. "Ninety per cent of them do not have passports."

    They live rough in makeshift shelters spread around the departure and arrival halls. Some playing cards, other picking at rice, boiled eggs and processed cheese provided by local NGOs.

    Ten thousand meals a day are handed out. Latrines have been set up, water tanked in.

    Inside, a group of women from Chad have spread themselves out on the floor, some are breastfeeding their babies.

    "We've also seen thousands of Libyans fleeing the violence – they just keep on coming," Rana said.

    The fear is, of course, that the exodus could grow to unmanageable proportions if Gaddafi presses close to Benghazi.

    File 13511


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