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Evacuees from Libya, mostly Chinese, arrive at the port of Herakleion, on Crete island. Thousands of Chinese and scores of Europeans began landing Thursday at the port of Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete after their evacuation from unrest-hit Libya aboard chartered Greek ferries. - 


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: A ferry with hundreds of Americans on board is scheduled to leave Libya at some point today. Meanwhile, other countries are also getting their workers out. Eyewitnesses along the border say tens-of-thousands of Egyptians and others are returning home.

As part of Marketplace's Mideast coverage, the BBC's Alastair Leithead is with us from Cairo. Hello, Alastair.


CHIOTAKIS: We're hearing stories of all of these foreign workers fleeing Libya. Why were they there in the first place?

LEITHEAD: Well there are a lot of opportunities for workers in Libya. Certainly in the oil industry, that's where you have a lot of people from the West working there. But also within the region itself there's been a lot of opportunity as well. And countries such as Tunisia and Egypt -- both neighbors -- both suffer from high unemployment themselves and there's a sense that there was more opportunity in Libya and so a lot of people have gone there. 1.5 million Egyptians are normally based in Libya, according to the Foreign Ministry here in Cairo.

CHIOTAKIS: How will the loss of all those workers change the economy in Libya.

LEITHEAD: Well I think the question of the moment is what is the economy doing in Libya because of the political crisis. Because of the violence that we've seen, that's going to have a big impact on the country anyway. There is high unemployment in Libya as it is. There is a lot of poverty in certain areas, and I think the anger that we've seen really shows that. And of course what will happen if Colonel Gaddafi decides to shut down the oil fields or set fire to them when he goes, there's lots of unknowns at the moment affecting Libya and of course the economy is a very important part of that.

CHIOTAKIS: The BBC's Allastair Beithead in Cairo. Alastair thanks.