BENGHAZI, Libya — On a chilly, wind-swept gravel shore in the Benghazi port, Libya's forgotten foreign workers shiver in rudimentary warehouses and watch ships pick up evacuees from wealthier nations.

More than 180,000 of the millions of foreign workers in Libya have already streamed across the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, but many remain stranded — too poor, or in the case of the Africans mistaken for Moammar Gadhafi's mercenary fighters, too scared to leave.

The Libyan uprising threw into disarray the enormous number of foreign workers that keep the economy running, doing everything from cleaning hotel rooms to building new houses to running the oil fields.

Who makes it out is a strict measure of how close their homeland is and the resources of their home government.

And for the Bangladeshis and the Africans stranded at the port, they are at the bottom of the global pecking order.

The makeshift camp once held more than 2,000 migrant workers overflowing from the warehouses onto the gravel where they were soaked by the torrential downpours of eastern Libya's winter. There is more room now, however, that the Vietnamese and Chinese have been evacuated by their governments.

Many were traumatized by the fighting they saw in the days following the uprising as people were shot and beaten on the streets. They say they are terrified of going back to Benghazi.

For the Africans, however, the fear is even more acute because of the widespread tales of bloodthirsty "African" mercenaries that are supposedly doing all of Gadhafi's killing for him.

In holding cells of Benghazi's courthouse were more than a dozen Africans imprisoned for supposedly being mercenaries. Most maintain they are just migrant workers.

In some cities, suspected mercenaries were lynched, and so many of these Africans have fled to the port for sanctuary — if not ultimately escape.

"We migrate from our country and we work here, and now there is problem," said Abdel Basset, a slim 27-year-old day laborer from Ethiopia who is here illegally. "They don't like black men. If we go out, they might kill us."

Basset wouldn't actually call himself Ethiopian, since he is from that country's Oromo minority, a small Muslim sect struggling for independence. Most of them long ago tore up their Ethiopian passports and they are truly without a country.

"We don't have human rights in our country or here," he said. "If we go back, it is problem for us, we are colonized."

The Oromo left Ethiopia for Sudan before crossing into Libya, where they work as day laborers with no contracts and no hope of a company ship to take them away.

What they do have is the black skin and the African features that many Libyans in Benghazi have blamed all the bloodshed on.

"If they see a black man, maybe they kill him. The problem is Gadhafi bought black people to use as soldiers," said Mohammed Ibrahim, 27, who has worked in Libya for two years.

African or not, the forgotten workers waiting at the port must watch as those from more fortunate nations are evacuated in front of them.

"All the time, I hope another ship come here, but my government doesn't send any ship," said Marouf Khan, a 22-year-old Bangladeshi who worked for a Libyan company. "All the people go, but I don't. All the time, I see big ship come, but no one take me."

Just a few days earlier, the HMS Cumberland pulled up just across the water and evacuated a few hundred people, including American and British citizens, while sailors served them mugs of hot tea to ward of the chill from the thunderous rain storm. The Africans and Bangladeshis could only watch from a distance.

Those working for foreign companies, like the Turkish and Chinese corporations with major construction contracts in Benghazi, also were evacuated. The rest were out of luck.

"It's dangerous, and if you have no company, no one will take you. I have no money and I don't understand Arabic," Khan said.

Mohammed Anis Burhan, 32, another of the 600 Bangladeshis stranded here, said he was six months into a two- year contract for a Libyan company when the uprising happened and had only received a couple months pay.

"They give us our passports and tell us to go out," he said. "My Libyan company will never send me back."

Amid the racism and animosity, though, Benghazi's famed generosity still manages to struggle its way through. The miserable refugees at the port are being cared for by representatives of the committees running the city.

Businessmen have donated huge sacks of rice, cans of tomato paste and vegetables so the workers receive three very simple meals a day. They have also donated blankets and organized medical visits from doctors.

"They do everything for you," including providing milk, medicine, soap and shampoo, said Daniel Ibrahim, 29, who like the others has been living here for the last week.

Not all the foreign workers from the poorer nations are out of luck. Some, like the Sudanese, have the advantage of good foreign relations and proximity.

Sudan's Benghazi consul, Khalid Abbas Ahmed, said that in the past week, they have evacuated at least 2,500 Sudanese from the city through regular minibus rides to the Egyptian border.

"If there is a problem, I say you can come to my office, and then I pay for them to the border, and from the border, there is the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo, and they take them from the border to Sudan, by air and by Nile," said Ahmed, wearing a spotless white robe and an expansive Sudanese turban.

Outside the consulate, the Sudanese pile into waiting minibuses at a rate of 500 a day, Ahmed said.

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He added that the Sudanese are well-known to Libyans and aren't mistaken for mercenaries.

Ibrahim Moussa, a 36-year-old Ghanaian with a broad smile and a surprising sense of humor, is not taking any chances. He plans to stay at the port.

"We need help. We will go anywhere, but who will take us? There is no one," he said, staring wistfully across the water at a cruise ship. It is here, no doubt, to evacuate some other nationality.

"Only white people get to go. The black people stay inside," he said.

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