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Many Filipinos in war-torn Libya choose to stay, says envoy

05:19 PM May 01, 2019

Cars drive past heavily damaged buildings in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi on April 8.  (AFP)

MANILA, Philippines–No volleys of rocket fire could send them back home.

Many Filipinos, who work as nurses, teachers and personnel in Libya’s oil industry, have refused to leave their relatively higher-paying jobs despite the order of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to leave Tripoli and other war-torn areas of the North African country, said Elmer Cato, Chargé d’Affaires at the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli.

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They opted to take the risk because they have to work and provide for their families back home, he said.

Cato told The Associated Press by phone that the government was prompted to issue the mandatory evacuation order after 13 Filipino workers and their dependents, including children, were trapped in an apartment building Monday amid intense fighting in Tripoli’s Salahuddin district.

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Another Filipino was held overnight by gunmen who broke into his apartment, but was freed unharmed the next day, Cato said. At least two Filipinos have been wounded after several hospitals and residential areas were recently hit by a barrage of mortar fire, he said.

“The fighting in the outskirts of Tripoli will also soon make it difficult for the embassy to respond to urgent requests for assistance from distressed nationals,” Cato said.

Amid frequent airstrikes, mostly delivered by drones, diplomats covered a part of the embassy’s roof with a huge Philippine flag in hopes that it won’t be bombed, Cato said.

Cato said that after volleys of rocket fire hit Tripoli for the first time last month, some Filipinos decided to return home or move to safer areas in Libya with the help of their employers or the Philippine government. The Philippine labor department has also imposed a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Libya due to the escalating violence.

The DFA on Wednesday ordered the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in the Libyan capital of Tripoli and in nearby areas. Associated Press

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TAGS: Department of Foreign Affairs, Elmer Cato, Libya, OFW, Tripoli, Violence
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