Asian nations have started evacuating more than 150,000 migrant workers, many of them low-paid construction laborers, trapped in Libya under the Moammar Gadhafi regime.
Governments evacuate citizens amid fears of a full-scale civil war in Libya
Despite communication challenges, governments are using ships, planes and land routes to Egypt to secure their citizens' safety amid fears of a full-scale civil war in the North African state.
Thailand evacuated the first 600 of some 23,000 Thai laborers working in Libya to neighboring Tunisia. Labor Ministry spokesman Sutham Natheethong said the Thais were taken from Libya to Tunisia by road.
There has been massive unrest in Benghazi, Libya
"They said they wanted to stay in Tunisia for a while to see if things calm down and they can return to work," Sutham said. There are an estimated 10,000 Thais in the capital Tripoli, where mass anti-government protests and army crackdowns have claimed at least 370 lives. The Thai embassy in Tripoli has advised all Thais there to be ready for evacuation.
Asians trapped in Libya
A majority of expatriates caught up in the unrest are contract workers – including 60,000 Bangladeshis, 30,000 Filipinos, 18,000 Indians, 10,000 Vietnamese - living under the tottering regime of Moammar Gaddafi.
China has arranged to evacuate half its 30,000 citizens on four ferries chartered from Greece. At the same time, China's State Council "decided to immediately deploy a chartered civil aircraft, cargo ships in nearby waters and Chinese fishing vessels carrying food and medical supplies," the foreign ministry said. State news agency Xinhua reported that 83 Chinese citizens had crossed the border into Egypt late Tuesday.
About 3,000 of the 18,000 Indians in Libya are reported to be in the violence-hit city of Benghazi, working in automobile companies and in hospitals.
"This is going to be quite a mammoth operation," India's Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters in New Delhi. "We will have to not only put in place arrangements for aircraft or ships, but also obtain permission from Libyan authorities for our aircraft to land there."
Thousands of expatriates are caught up in the unrest under the Moammar Gadhafi regime
Rao said an Indian passenger ship that could carry 1,000 people was in the Red Sea and has been directed to stay in the area.
Evacuation - a mammoth operation
Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose country relies heavily on remittances from around nine million overseas workers, was to fly to the Middle East on Friday to review emergency plans for Filipinos in the region. Manila has said it will buy plane tickets for its 30,000 citizens in Libya.
Bangladesh, that also relies on income sent home by workers abroad, said it was looking at evacuation options. "Our primary concern is the safety and security of the 60,000 Bangladeshi workers who are in Libya," Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes told reporters in Dhaka. "Evacuation is an option. We will do everything we can, whatever it takes, to ensure the safety and security of our workers, but the situation is very, very volatile."
Nepal’s foreign ministry officials in Kathmandu said they were looking at overland evacuation plans for their 3,000 citizens. Several Asian governments, including Sri Lanka, have asked the International Organization for Migration to help evacuate their nationals to escape the unrest.
Protests are taking place in several embassies in Libya and abroad
Libyan diplomats at the United Nations and several countries broke ties with the country's leader Moammar Gadhafi, urging foreign nations to help stop what many called the slaughter of anti-government protesters.
Gadhafi's forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators who demand an end to his 41-year rule. Fighting has spread to the capital Tripoli. Libyan ambassadors in several countries, including the US, India, Malaysia and Bangladesh, are reported to have abandoned their posts.
Author: Sherpem Sherpa (AFP/Reuters/dpa)
Editor: Sarah Berning