A lucky few flee Libya 'nightmare' to reach Tunisia

Baby on her shoulder, suitcase in hand, Khadija, a 34-year-old Tunisian, is rushing to escape from the "Libyan nightmare" through the Ras Jedir border crossing to reach her homeland.

With the crossing point open only intermittently because of clashes on the Libyan side, Khadija has to wait all night before being allowed through.

"Finally I'm leaving the Libyan nightmare. I'm clearing out of a country damaged by fighting. There is no future for my family," she tells AFP as she waits for her husband at the exit of passport control, open for a few hours on Saturday morning.

When Khadija arrived at Ras Jedir from Tripoli on Friday she found the crossing closed after hundreds of foreign workers tried to storm it and force their way through.

The next morning a trickle of people went through. About 50 Libyan-registered vehicles were granted passage, along with a smaller number of people on foot carrying their bags, before Tunisia again closed the border after just a few hours.

In a 4X4 car, with his wife and two children, 54-year-old Libyan Mohammed Badri tells how he had to wait 17 hours.

"Our priority was to leave Libya, to save our skins and find somewhere to live in Tunisia, then decide what we will do," he says, before trading dollars with young Tunisian money brokers in plain sight of unbothered police officers.

Omar Zedhi, a 27-year-old Libyan, crosses on foot and opts to take a taxi the rest of the way to Tunis.

Fed up with the instability in his country, which already went through a civil war in 2011 that overthrew dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Omar now sees Tunisia as just a staging post.

"I'm only staying a week in Tunisia and then I'll go to London. It's sad to say, but it is impossible for me now to live in Libya," says the tourism company employee.

Omar points out that at least Libyans and Tunisians are managing to flee. Still stuck on the other side of the border are 6,000 foreign workers, mostly Egyptians, who have been waiting for days.

A protest by hundreds of them on Friday spurred Libyan border guards to fire warning shots and shut the crossing for nearly 24 hours.

- Stranded in 40-degree heat -

"The Egyptians have nothing, no one is looking after them. They are on the ground, without water or food" and sweltering in temperatures of up to 40 degrees, Omar tells AFP.

Khadija says: "I'm sad for the Egyptians stuck on the Libyan side. They are in a lamentable situation and very badly treated by the Libyan authorities.

"With my own eyes I've seen Libyan police beating Egyptians with sticks," she says before her husband interrupts her.

"There's no humanity and no human rights. The Egyptians are being treated like dogs," adds Kamel, other Tunisian fleeing Libya.

The Tunisian government on Friday urged its 50,000 to 80,000 nationals still in Libya to come home as quickly as possible.

But it also said it could not cope with taking in the many Arab and Asian people working in Libya as it did during the 2011 revolt.

Tunis will let through only foreigners whose governments guarantee immediate repatriation.

"Between the God-given heat, the heavy hand of the Libyan police and Tunisia's strict stance, these Egyptians are in a pitiful state," says Amir Sadkhaui, a 38-year-old Tunisian.