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On Libya-Tunisia border, refugees plead for help to go home

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Aid agencies and local Boy Scouts quick to pitch in

Aid agencies of all kinds have been quick to pitch in, and Tunisians have by all accounts been generous with donations and with their time. Boy Scouts and other volunteers handed out bread and water from the backs of trucks on Thursday, as they have done from the start.

“We wanted to buy food, but what’s happening is that people show up at the border with food. We haven’t had to buy any,” says Moadh Kheriji, a UK-based official with the Islamic Relief charity, which provides 5,000 food packages and 5,000 personal hygiene kits each day to streaming refugees.

Tunisians in even some of the poorest parts of the country have taken up collections and sent convoys with donated supplies, he says, to “help their Libyan brothers and their Egyptian brothers” after watching the plight of the refugees on television.

“There has been an amazing response by Tunisians and it needs to be matched by the international community,” says Mr. Kheriji.

Foreign workers attacked

Foreign workers have been attacked in Libya since protests against President Muammar Qaddafi began on Feb, 17, which mirrored the start of pro-democracy demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt that recently toppled authoritarian rulers.

In the most violent crackdown yet in an Arab popular uprising, Mr. Qaddafi deployed African mercenaries to stop protests and fight street battles. Since then, black African workers have also been targeted by antiregime forces, suspicious that they might also be mercenaries.

“We don’t know what plans God has for us, but if we stay [in Libya], we die,” said Ghanaian mason Manu Moses. He crossed the border with just a tiny orange suitcase and a cellphone he hid in his underwear. Libyan police lifted his other phone, a TV, and a speaker set.

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