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Text by Marie VALLA

Latest update : 2011-03-07

Once considered a land of opportunity by neighbouring countries, mounting violence in Libya has forced thousands of Egyptian workers to give up their dreams, with 400 refugees alone fleeing the country Saturday to return home.

The air and sea evacuation of Egyptian workers who fled Libya for Tunisia hasn’t stopped. Four hundred of them left the port of Zarzis Saturday aboard the Egyptian frigate el Nasser.

The Nasser sailed to Zarzis loaded with 25 tons of food. It is due to leave again on Saturday night with 400 Egyptian refugees on board for a two or three-day journey back to Egypt. 
The passengers waiting to board have the somber look of those who don’t know what the future holds. 
"I return poorer than when I left,” says Mohamed Abd el Rabou al Sayeh, originally from the Egyptian province of Kana. 
Dragging their last bundle of earthly possessions, the men tell of flying before Libyans’growing hostility. As a consequence of Muammar Gaddafi’s speech on February 24, Egyptians were suspected of “handing out drugs to the resistance fighters,” explained Ahmed Hazou, a native of the city of Al Mansoura. 

Checkpoint thieves
The 250-kilometer of road stretching between the border post of Ras Jdir and Tripoli is filled with about 30 checkpoints. 
All along the way, the men were searched and robbed. Ahmed Hazou had to relinquish the last of his savings worth $2000, his three mobile phones and his tools – he is a ceramist by trade – or risk being beaten up otherwise. 
According to these men, Libya is no longer the gold mine it used to be for young Egyptians wanting to escape unemployment and demographic pressure at home. Neither Mohammed, nor Ahmed ever want to go back.
Egyptian diplomats supervising the evacuation on Zarzis port say that 500,000 of the estimated 1.5 million Egyptians working in Libya have already left. 1,200 Egyptians are still likely to cross the border to Tunisia in the next few days if the situation in Libya keeps getting worse
On top of the 400 men being evacuated by the Nasser, 600 more are scheduled to be airlifted on Saturday. This would mean that there won’t be anymore Egyptian refugees at the border camp of Choucha by Sunday.  



Date created : 2011-03-05


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