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Libya Church shelters migrants

Local bishops helping some of around 89,000 Bangladeshi workers

Libya Church shelters migrants
Workers from Bangladesh in the arrival hall of the border post as they wait for permission to enter Egypt (photo: Daily Mail (
Sumon Corraya, Dhaka

March 9, 2011

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The Church in crisis-torn Libya is offering shelter to stranded Bangladeshi migrant workers following an appeal by concerned bishops in their homeland. “The government is struggling to repatriate thousands of migrant workers and we can’t help them directly. With the assistance of the Vatican embassy in Dhaka, we asked the Libyan Church via the Italian bishops’ conference to shelter Bangladeshis,” Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace chairman Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, said yesterday. “Since our appeal, several churches in Libya are currently sheltering many Bangladeshi migrants. Now there’s nothing else we can do from but help support the government which is under huge pressure,” the bishop said. Reports say there are around 89,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers still in Libya where protesters are embroiled in a bloody conflict to oust long-term dictator Muammar Gaddafi. About 5,500 workers have returned home so far and at least five were killed. For the Bangladesh government it’s a gigantic task and the Labor Ministry has expressed regret it can only bring back around 25,000 with help from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). There are several hundred Christian migrant workers in Libya.  A few of them have already got home safely. “Returning home means landing in heaven from hell for me. I’ve left everything in Libya, but I’m happy to get home in one piece,” said Sentu Richard Gomes, 27, a Catholic from Deogaon near Dhaka, who returned home three days ago. “In Libya around 100 rebels attacked us, stole everything we had and torched the building we were hiding in. We had no choice but to flee. I fled to Egypt, starved for days and then came back to Bangladesh with help from the IOM.” Thousands of migrant workers from other Asian countries are still waiting to come home. According to the Philippine government, around 12,000 of the estimated 26,000 Filipinos in Libya have left the turmoil, with just over 4,000 having actually arrived back home. Of the estimated 18,000 Indians in Libya when the violence began, around 1,700 are reportedly still awaiting evacuation. Meanwhile, around 7, 500 of a reported 23,000 Thai workers had returned home, but the Thai foreign ministry said on Monday it was still trying to contact around 1,000 migrants still believed trapped. Elsewhere,  Sri Lanka’s Daily News online edition yesterday reported that only four more workers who had sought evacuation were to be repatriated although media reports estimate hundreds more are still in Libya. Around 61 Indonesians were reported to still be in Libya, while Vietnam said the last of around 8,500 of its migrant workers were due to arrive home later today. Related reports Caritas teams assist fleeing migrant workers Sri Lankan migrant workers flee Libya Filipinos take refuge in Tripoli cathedral Gaddafi slur infuriates HK rights activists BA13574.1644

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