After hours crossing endless horizons of flat desert, a range of hills rises up to meet the sea. At the top of these bleak hills, just past the Egyptian town of Sallum, chain fences mark the divide between a country having just peacefully toppled its president, and a violent conflict hoping to reach the same result.
But just metres before the no-mans’ land between the two countries begins, thousands of people caught in this conflict now find themselves stranded. Libya had a huge migrant population, with around fifty per cent of its workforce coming from foreign countries. Many of them were now forced to the edges of the country, caught either at the Tunisian- or Egyptian-border.
For the few Britons leaving the country, the UK Embassy had staff stationed at the border to normalise any problems they faced. Similarly, other countries had sent delegations to aid their respective nationals as many were forced to leave without passports.
For the large groups of Bangladeshis, however, their government was not forthcoming with help. They had just announced that they had no desire for their nationals to return to Bangladesh, citing the lack of jobs, housing and prospects for those that had left their country for just these things.
And then there were the refugees. The people from Eritrea, from Somalia, from Ethiopia and from Sudan. People who had fled their own country, often just intending to pass through Libya with the hope of reaching Europe. These people often had no passports, and certainly no desire to return to the countries from which they had fled. Many said they would prefer to return to Libya “when the situation improves”.
We were few, those traveling in the other direction. A few Egyptian private vehicles, offering humanitarian aid to their Libyan brothers. And the occasional journalist. I did not know what would await me, but I was stepping into the revolution.