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Addressing a think-tank audience in Washington, Ali Aujali, who quit his post as Libya’s ambassador in Washington after the uprising began, underscored the students’ plight.

“Gadhafi’s regime is destroying all the infrastructure of Libya … but we don’t want him to also destroy the future of Libya. These students are the future of our country,” he said.

The students are in a bind. Their F-1 visas allow them to work only on campus and only if they are enrolled in a course. But they cannot enroll because they don’t have any money.

The CBIE is advising students who are eligible for work permits to apply for them and try to find jobs.

Abdalla Hamad, 21, who is studying biology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, has tried to cut down his expenses by sharing a cellphone with his friends and taking public transportation instead of his car.

“If we don’t get the money, we could become homeless,” he said. “We don’t even have the money for plane tickets to go back to Libya.”