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686,000 Libya refugees flee to Egypt, Tunisia

Trucks were piled high with household items as Libya refugees crossed the border into Tunisia seeking safety from an escalation in random bombings.

A Tunisian army soldier with a sniffing dog inspects cars belonging to Libyan refugees fleeing the unrest, at the Dhuheiba border crossing between Libya and Tunisia, Tuesday, May 3. Several mortars hit Tunisian territory near the Libyan border crossing of Dhuheiba, the site of fierce fighting between pro-Qaddafi and rebel forces in recent days, said eyewitnesses.

Chokri Mahjoub/AP

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The Libyan revolution that began in February with hopes that Col. Muammar Qaddafi would quickly be toppled like the Tunisian and Egyptian autocrats before him, has turned into a protracted conflict with a grim human cost.

Hundreds of thousands have fled the violence. The exodus statistics compiled by the United Nations contain all categories of Libyan migrants. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on Western nations to help, with the agency saying 686,422 had left Libya as of May 4, mostly for Egypt and Tunisia.

There have been columns of migrant workers from as far away as Ghana and Bangladesh, paid with oil money to build and maintain Libya's infrastructure (many of those leaving were robbed on their way out at police checkpoints). There are Turks and other big investors who left behind lucrative projects.

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