Most OFWs want to stay in Libya despite civil war
MANILA, Philippines — Most of the thousand Filipinos working in Libya preferred to stay put even though renewed fighting between rival factions in the Libyan civil war reached the capital Tripoli last week.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) last week urged the remaining 1,000 Filipinos working in and around Tripoli to get themselves repatriated to avoid getting caught in the fighting between the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord.
On April 8, the DFA raised the crisis alert to Level 3, which required voluntary repatriation.
With the declaration, even returning Filipino workers with contracts were barred from traveling to Libya until the crisis level was lowered to Level 2.
The highest alert level, 4, calls for forced evacuation from Libya.
“It’s Day 10 of the conflict but only 19 of 1,000 Filipinos in Tripoli want to go home,” Philippine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elmer Cato tweeted on Monday.
Cato said the embassy staff met with Filipino nurses at Oil Clinic in Tripoli and at the University of Tripoli Medical Center to convince them to return to the Philippines for the time being.
“There were no takers (of the repatriation offer). They said they would stay,” he said.
Most of the Filipino workers in Libya are in the health care and construction sectors.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. praised the overseas Filipino workers who chose to stay despite the danger, saying they “must continue what they are doing: helping the Libyan people.”
“I will slap anyone who suggests we forcibly remove them. They go when they want to go and we in government will take them out,” Locsin tweeted on Monday.
Tripoli and neighboring areas
The DFA has limited the crisis declaration to Tripoli and adjacent areas within 100 kilometers of the capital.
These are Tajoura, Ghot Romman, Qaraboli and Qasr Khiyar to the east of the capital; Esbea, Tarhuna, Bani Walid and Gharyan to the south; and Aziziya, Warshifana, Zawia, Surman and Sabratha to the west.
The Philippines has banned the deployment of new hires to Libya since 2011 when an uprising led to the ouster and death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
At the time, the government repatriated about 10,000 of the 26,000 Filipino workers in the north African country.
Another 4,000 were repatriated in 2014 when civil war broke out.
In July 2017, there were around 3,000 Filipino workers in Libya.
Before the current conflict, the Philippine government allowed migrants with contracts to come home for vacation and then return to Libya.
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