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Gov’t ready for forced OFW repatriation from Libya

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday said the government may soon order the mandatory evacuation of all Filipinos in Libya as violence continued to escalate in the North African country.

Bello said that pending the latest assessment of the situation by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), it was “very possible” that the crisis alert condition in Libya would be raised from Level 3 to 4 in the next few days, which will require the mandatory repatriation of all Filipinos there.

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Eleven Filipino workers have so far been evacuated from Libya while 29 others are waiting to be repatriated as fighting intensified in the capital, Tripoli, according to the DFA.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the majority of the estimated 1,000 Filipinos in Tripoli and nearby areas, mostly construction and hospital workers, had refused to be repatriated despite the violence.

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Filipinos brave it out

“Tripoli is getting dire. US (United States) et al embassies pulled out; ours stays on Libyan soil while Filipinos brave it out as is their right and responsibility. Pray,” Locsin said on Twitter on Monday.

He said the fighting between forces of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord and their rivals from the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar was expected to last for six months.

“If our [overseas Filipino workers] (OFWs) live through it they will be treasured residents in a grateful land. This is what Filipinos do as strangers in a stranger land: make it better,” Locsin said.

Even if the DFA raised the crisis condition to its highest, Alert Level 4, and calls for mandatory evacuation of all workers from Libya, “OFWs won’t go if they don’t feel like it,” he said.

Bello said that even before the DFA raised the alert level, the Department of Labor and Emploment would deploy to neighboring Tunisia on Monday a six-man quick response team that would assist in the repatriation of about 2,600 OFWs.

The government had called for a voluntary repatriation of OFWs from Libya as early as two weeks ago.

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Passport confiscation

If the Alert Level 4 is raised, the DFA could “confiscate the passport” of OFWs who would insist on staying in Libya, Bello said.

The high pay and good benefits the workers are receiving in Libya are two of the reasons the OFWs are choosing to stay in the country despite the “very precarious situation.”

Locsin said the country’s embassy staff would not leave Tripoli while there were still Filipinos there.

The DFA raised the crisis alert to Level 3, which requires voluntary repatriation, on April 8 as Gen. Haftar’s forces marched toward Tripoli.

The declaration bars OFWs with existing contracts but on vacation in the Philippines from returning to Libya until the crisis level is lowered to Level 2.

The Philippine Embassy reported that four Filipinos were evacuated from Tripoli on Monday and reached Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, bringing to 11 the number of repatriated OFWs so far.

“Another 29 Filipinos in Tripoli will be repatriated in the next several days,” Philippine Charge d’Affaires Elmer Cato said.

He said many Filipino nurses in Tripoli decided to stay so they could attend to the casualties from rocket barrages.

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TAGS: forced repatriation, Libyan civil war, OFWs in Libya, Silvestre Bello III
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