Ras al-Jedir / Libya-Tunisia border checkpoint
The devastated lives and livelihoods of foreign migrant workers have been among the most tragic and overlooked consequences of Libya’s civil war.
Like most Libyans, the uprising caught the foreign workers by surprise.
But unlike many Libyans, the Bangladeshis, Chinese, Africans and other foreign nationals who had come to Libya to make a modest living had no interest in local politics.
None of that mattered when clashes erupted across the country.
Many foreign workers found themselves alternately trapped in the crossfire — or fleeing for their lives. Tens of thousands have managed to escape, traversing perilous desert routes rife with danger, harassment and threats to arrive at overcrowded and under-supplied refugee camps on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders.
Nearly 70,000 Bangladeshi nationals were residing in Libya as migrant workers when violence erupted in February 2011.
With the help of the World Bank and the Bangladeshi government,
35,000 migrants have been able to return to Bangladesh in the aftermath of the uprising – most of them heavily in debt, and with no ready means of earning a living at home. Their traumatic return also underscores the difficulties that many overcame to get to Libya in the first place; many have sold their homes and mortgaged their own lives for the opportunity
to provide for their families by earning income overseas.
When passing the border, all they own is a bag with few clothes, some food and beverage, sometimes a blanket.
Holding tight to what little they have managed to salvage; they attach ID’s photos to their bags with the hopeful expectation that not everything has to be lost and to recognize their own bags among all the others in the unlikely hope to find them again in case of loss.