OFWs escape from Libyan strife

by Patty Maluto

MANILA–SOME 35 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) boarded the chartered boat by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that will take them out of tension-gripped Libya, the Dept. of Foreign Affairs reported.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said August 25 the boat picked up foreign workers, including Filipinos, from the port of Tripoli to take them to the city of Benghazi–an area being controlled by pro-democracy groups.

 

From Benghazi, located near the Libya-Egypt border, the Filipino repatriates will be traveling by land to Egypt where a commercial flight will take them to Manila.

The Philippine government said it will shoulder the cost of the Cairo-Manila trip.

Although a total of 91 OFWs earlier registered for repatriation, they could not be all brought to the port “because of heavy fighting in the streets of Tripoli.”

The IOM has earlier reserved 400 seats for Filipino workers.

“The embassy team will try to fetch them tomorrow for a second boat trip,” the DFA official said.

There are still more than 1,500 Filipinos, mostly nurses, left in Tripoli and its surrounding areas.

The bulk of Filipino workers were repatriated at the height of the crisis in mid-February to March of this year.

The department has raised alert level 4 in the entire of Libya, which signals for mandatory evacuation.

Also, DFA Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis is currently in the country to convince Filipinos to avail of the Philippine government’s repatriation program.

The 91 Filipinos, including the 35 who first took the boat to Benghazi, were supposed to take a flight to Manila from Cairo.

Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) helped in the safe passage of the OFWs, Hernandez said.

Also according to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who is currently in Tripoli to convince Filipinos there to avail of the country’s repatriation program, Libya’s immigration department helped in arranging for the exit documents of the OFWs.

The bulk of the OFWs, numbering about 9,000, left Libya at the height of the clashes in mid-February to March

Hernandez, in an interview, reiterated the department’s call for Filipinos “to stay put in your homes and work places until further notice.

Rebel groups have reportedly overthrown the 42-year Gaddafi regime after taking over several military outposts in the country’s capital.

The Libyan embassy in Tripoli has also raised the NTC’s flag in their office in Makati City, showing support for the country’s transitional government.

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