Thousands of Filipinos refuse to leave Libya jobs

Smoke rises after rockets fired by one of Libya's militias struck and ignited a building after clashes between rival militias, in an area at Alswani road in Tripoli August 2, 2014. (Reuters)

Only a fraction of about 13,000 Filipinos have expressed a desire to leave Libya so far despite frantic Philippine government efforts to evacuate them because they’re afraid of losing their jobs in the conflict-torn country, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Sunday.

Del Rosario said only 1,700 Filipinos have signed up to be repatriated from the Libyan cities of Benghazi and Misarata as well as the capital, Tripoli, after the Philippines called for the mandatory evacuations of its nationals from the North African nation.

The Philippines has chartered a ship to transport the Filipinos this week from Libya to Malta, where flights will be arranged to take them home.

About 160 Filipinos have escaped by land to Tunisia, including 50 workers who were briefly stranded when the border crossing was shut by authorities Friday night due to violence that erupted amid the rush to escape from Libya, del Rosario said.

“I’m not sure that we can even get 50 percent to come home,” he told The Associated Press after arriving in Manila from Tunisia, where he helped arranged the evacuations of Filipinos in Libya. “They’re so scared, but their concerns are their jobs.”

Filipino nurses are especially apprehensive about leaving because employers have enticed them to stay with additional pay and they are committed to their hospital work, del Rosario said.

Philippine calls for the Filipino workers and their dependents to move out of Libya heightened after a Filipino construction worker was beheaded a few weeks ago and a nurse was abducted and gang-raped amid the escalating violence.

President Benigno Aquino III deployed del Rosario to Tunisia with an order for him to make sure “no one gets left behind,” del Rosario said, but he added that many simply refused to leave despite the danger.

“I was told that if some of them go out of their houses, they get divested of their money and cellphones,” he said. “That’s what is scary. Nobody seems to be in charge. There are no evident police forces so if you get in trouble, you’re on your own.”

The Philippines is among the world’s top labor exporters, with about a tenth of its 100 million people working abroad to prop up their families and the country’s economy with the money they send home.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43