Bel Trew, Samalout
The sign of the cross tattooed on their fingers marked out the Egyptian workers for especially brutal treatment at the hands of their captors in Libya.
Some were beaten so hard that they suffered brain damage. Shenouda, 30, says he was among a group of Coptic Christians brutalised while they were held for two weeks in a prison at Tripoli’s main airport.
He said that he was flogged twice a day after his tattoo was spotted by his Islamic guards.
He is among a wave of Egypt’s impoverished Christian minority who have gone to neighbouring Libya to find work despite the risk of violence.
“More and more people are going to Libya because of the economic crisis here. You can’t get work, you can’t make money in Egypt,” said Shenouda, who is now back in his village near the town of Samalout, about 150 miles south of Cairo.
“We are aware of the dangers, particularly as Christians. We know it is more likely we will die than live in Libya but we don’t have a choice,” he said.
Thousands of Egyptians are believed to cross illegally to Libya each year and about 500 young men travel each month from Shenouda’s region alone. They pay smugglers about £300 for passage from the nearby Minya to Benghazi.
Many die making the journey or at the hands of the numerous Islamist and jihadist groups that stalk Libya.
PHOTOS: TAHA JAWASHY