Emergency airlifts launched on Libyan border

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By Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — European nations and Egypt launched emergency airlifts along Libya's borders Wednesday, as tens of thousands of hungry, anxious foreign workers poured into Tunisia to escape Libya's burgeoning civil war.

More than 140,000 refugees have already fled across the Libyan border into Tunisia and Egypt and thousands more were arriving by the day. As border crossings were overwhelmed with mostly young men, U.N. experts warned that fast action was needed to protect and feed them before the exodus turned into a humanitarian crisis.

Many were from countries that could not afford evacuations, while others were sub-Saharan African workers whose lives are in danger because they are being mistaken for mercenaries hired by Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. Human Rights Watch warned that fleeing African workers were "particularly under threat due to popular anger" over Gadhafi's mercenaries.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain had begun an airlift Wednesday to help Egyptians stranded on the Libyan-Tunisian border get back home. The British planes, departing from Djerba, Tunisia, will help evacuate up to 8,800 Egyptian migrants to Cairo.

"These people shouldn't be kept in transit camps," Cameron said.

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