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Sri Lankan migrant workers flee Libya

Government arranging charter flight to evacuate more nationals

Tripoli airport is currently chaotic, according to eye-witnesses Tripoli airport is currently chaotic, according to eye-witnesses
  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • February 28, 2011
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Efforts to evacuate around 1,000 Sri Lankan workers caught up in the turmoil in Libya is ongoing the government says, with the first batch arriving home yesterday and several dozen expected to arrive in the next couple of days.

According to L. K. Ruhunage, additional general manager, Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, nine hotel workers arrived back home yesterday after fleeing to Jordan.

Some 37 workers evacuated to Greece from Libya will be flown back to Sri Lanka in the next few days.  The Government is also arranging a charter flight to bring back another 418 Sri Lankans stranded at the Sri Lankan embassy in Tripoli.

Plans are underway to evacuate them as soon as possible, said Minister of Foreign Employment, Promotion and Welfare, Dilan Perera.

He said External Affairs Ministry is also in contact with the Indian foreign ministry to try and arrange the evacuation of other Sri Lankans on their ships, he said.

The Ministry of External Affairs said an earlier government attempt to seek assistance from the International Organization for Migration to help Sri Lankans flee had failed since their workers had already left Libya due to the worsening situation.

As many as 2,000 people have been killed in two weeks of unrest, according to some diplomatic sources.

Opposition forces trying to oust president Moammar Gaddafi are moving closer to Tripoli after having taken control of several cities in the east of the country.

The United Nations estimates some 100,000 people have fled the violence over the past seven days with many countries from around the world having sent assistance to evacuate their nationals by air, land and sea.

“I hope no Sri Lankans have been hurt so far, my daughter works in Libya,” said Nilanthi Jesmin Fernando a 58-year-old Catholic mother in Colombo.

“The situation for migrant workers is grave,” she said, adding her daughter is her main source of income.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government today estimates about 1,900 of 23,000 Filipino’s working in Libya have fled the country. According to a government spokesman, the new Filipino foreign minister, Albert del Rosario, personally led an evacuation of hundreds of Filipino workers out of Tripoli.

SR13443.1643

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