On Libya’s western border with Tunisia, thousands passed the checkpoints in a matter of hours, weighed down with as many of their belongings as they could carry.
One witness said Libyan police deliberately picked on Tunisians and Egyptians after successful revolutions there set a precedent for the anti-Gaddafi uprising.
One Tunisian man who made it onto home soil said: “The situation is bad. People died. They killed them. They took their money.”
It is estimated up to 80,000 ex-pat Tunisians live and work in Libya.
Authorities and aid organisations have set up special reception facilities to treat the wounded at the border.
There are many other nationalities taking flight too, among them many Libyans.
On the border with Egypt, which has 1.5 million citizens in Libya, Egyptian refugees told of the bloodshed and horror they had left behind.
One said: “The hospitals are saturated with the wounded and the dead. There’s a lack of medicine, and makeshift hospitals have been set up in the streets.”
Another man returning home said: “I saw mercenaries firing on people using large calibre machine-guns, like those fitted in fighter jets. They targeted the people.”
Another witness said the use of mercenaries had made it more dangerous for everyone. “The Libyan population stood together with us,” he said “but they took vengeance on all Africans armed or not, because Africans in military uniforms had been seen by the people killing Libyans.”
There is a tangible fear among those fleeing that they may died if they stay in Libya.
The scramble to get out is becoming an exodus.