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Migrant workers call for Libya action

Exodus from impending civil war hurting migrant Christians

Indian evacuees from trouble-torn Libya arriving in New Delhi Indian evacuees from trouble-torn Libya arriving in New Delhi
  • Libya
  • March 4, 2011
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Philippine Protestants have called for speedy action by the government to help Filipino workers escape the conflict in Libya.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) said a "more resolute and speedy action from our government" is needed.

Migrante International reported that as of March 1, at least 109 Filipino workers were waiting for help for more than a week already near the border of Tunisia and Libya. Also,150 Filipinos were reported trapped in Misurata, Libya.

According to Migrante International records, 30,000 Filipinos work in Libya where as many as 1,000 people are believed to have been killed after anti-government protesters called for the removal of Muammar Gaddafi.

There are also some 18,000 Indians in Libya, more than 3,000 of whom have been safely evacuated.

Eight Indian nurses, who reached Libya just 15 days ago, returned with a mere 500 dinars (around US$ 400) in hand.

“We were air-lifted to Delhi where most of us look for night shelters. Some are lucky to be accommodated at the state-owned Kerala House. Bereft of money, we are finding it difficult to return home which is miles away. All our plans have crashed like a pack of cards,” said Mini James from Kerala.

Rev. Rex Reyes, NCCP general secretary, said he received a report from a missionary in Libya of the Philippine government’s "sluggish response" to the situation there.

“As these popular uprisings escalate to other countries, we urge our government to take necessary proactive measures. Certainly our compatriots deserve better. Each one of them counts," he said.

"We reiterate our call for the constituency to be unceasing in our intercession for our Filipino overseas workers. May they be safe and be home if need be," Reyes added.

He called on faith communities in conflict areas to provide support to stranded foreigners.

“Threats of a civil war loom large. We are not safe in Libya and can’t cope with the circumstances,” said Cherian Philip, a Christian from Kerala.

Libya is also one of the major destination countries for Bangladeshi migrants, according to aid body Caritas. Around 50-60,000 Bangladeshis live there according to the government of Bangladesh, most of them working in the construction sector or for foreign-owned companies. Thousands now had to flee the unrest and are stranded at Libyan borders.

Caritas and other organizations have submitted a report to the ministry of foreign affairs in Bangladesh, urging the government to provide food and water, ensure the migrants' safety and if possible evacuate them. Some of these recommendations have already been taken into account by the Bangladeshi government, Caritas reported.

Migrants “can’t get in touch with their governments, which, besides, aren’t doing anything to help them,” said Fr. Alan Arcebuche, director of Caritas Libya.

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