ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: September 10, 2018 09:54 AM GMT
Thousands of migrant workers leave the Philippines on a daily basis but those with work contracts in Libya have been banned from leaving their home country through September due to the escalating armed conflict in the oil-producing North African country. (Photo by Mark Saludes/ucanews.com)
A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has urged migrant workers in Libya to stay within safe zones in view of the escalating violence in the oil-producing North African country, where a number of Filipinos have been snatched and Christians beheaded.
"Given the volatile situation in Libya, we appeal to our [Filipino workers] there to be more cautious and attentive to one another," Bishop Ruperto Santos said.
"Always listen to and follow the directives of our Philippine embassy officials," added the prelate as he reminded workers there to "always pray and take the necessary precautions."
Bishop Santos, who heads the Philippines' Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, also cautioned Filipinos in Libya to avoid unsecured places.
The situation has become so serious that the government of Rodrigo Duterte — who recent polls show is losing the public's trust — issued a blanket ban in September on citizens leaving the country to work in Libya.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has told migrant workers to prepare for a possible evacuation, with rapid response teams on standby in Manila to bring 1,800 Filipinos back from Tripoli where the conflict is raging.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Libya is now at Alert Level III due to rocketing violence, which poses a threat to the safety of the estimated 3,500 Filipinos working there.
This alert level means the prospect of evacuation is now very much on the cards. Meanwhile, all those with valid employment contracts who are currently on vacation in the Philippines will not be allowed to return there.
Due to the stepped-up fighting, Manila has been forced to suspend its efforts to secure the release of three Filipinos kidnapped by an armed group there in July.
In August, Duterte declared he was ready to send navy frigates to North Africa to help free the hostages. He later ordered the creation of a task force to work for their release instead.