1,700 OFWs at airport construction site trapped in Libya

A FILIPINO migrant rights group on Sunday said there are about 1,700 overseas Filipino workers who are now trapped at an airport under-going construction in Benghazi, Libya, where the OFWs are working.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional director, said Mr. Gil Lebria, Migrante country coordinator in Libya just called him at around 10:45 a.m. (Saudi time) informing him of the request of the 1,700 OFWs working at an airport being constructed in Benghazi, Libya.

On February 19, citing local reports, Libyan government forces fired on the protesters in the Eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least 15 people and wounding others when the government tried to suppress the protesters calling for an end of the incumbent ruler’s 42-year hold in power.

It was reported that internet has been shut up and the only available form of communication is by telephone and cell phone, but is expected to be cut soon.

Monterona said, quoting Lebria, the 1,700 OFWs convey their serious concerns for their safety as they said the peace and order situation in Benghazi is getting worst as the incumbent regime is determined to crashed the protests wage by thousands of its nationals.

“There are about 25,000 OFWs working in Libya; 16,000 of them are nurses, while the remaining are professionals and construction workers,” Monterona said.

“What worries them is that their passports and other pertinent travel documents are with their employers; in case of emergency they could not easily get it, thus it poses a problem to get out of Libya,” Monterona added.

“Lebria informed me that the 1,700 OFWs would like to convey to the PH government through its PH embassy in Tripoli, about 800 kilometers far from Benghazi, that they be given food as they run out of food supplies, they could not get out of the project site,” Monterona added.

Lebria managed to call a PH embassy staffer and conveyed the worries of the 1,700 OFWs, but was advised to stay at their barracks, until further notice from the PH embassy in Tripoli.

“We have known that the PH embassy in Libya had already requested P50-M for the evacuation plan of the more than 25,000 OFWs in case the situation gets worst, but the embassy still yet to receive reply from the DFA in Pasay,” Monterona averred.

“We are calling the Aquino govt. through the Foreign affairs department to seriously consider the unfolding of events amid the escalation of protest and clashes in Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya and prepare evacuation plans along with the release of the needed budget like the assistance to the nationals fund intended for emergency repatriation of OFWs caught during war or internal strife in these countires,” Monterona said.

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