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Thousands of Asians have managed to leave troubled Libya
Thousands of Asians have managed to leave troubled LibyaImage: AP

Evacuation continues for Asian nationals in Libya

February 25, 2011

With the violence in Libya raging for more than a week, evacuation efforts are still continuing. Tens of thousands are still waiting to leave the country.


China has so far evacuated 12,000, or about one third, of its citizens from the turmoil in Libya, as Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao stated early Friday, before welcoming 224 Chinese off the first chartered plane. Chinese nationals have also been evacuated from Libya to other countries in the region, including Greece and Egypt.

For the evacuation process China has also dispatched a navy ship, which was diverted from anti-piracy patrol duties in the Gulf of Aden. The ship’s mission marks the first time China has sent a naval ship to take part in the evacuation of civilians in a humanitarian crisis.

Chinese nationals wait for Greek vessels chartered by the Chinese government
Chinese nationals wait for Greek vessels chartered by the Chinese governmentImage: AP

The ministry of commerce has also said that some operating sites of China’s petroleum company CNPC were attacked. In this incident, some Chinese were injured but there were no reports of deaths. According to the ministry, 75 Chinese companies are working in Libya.

Asian nationals leaving Libya

Meanwhile India has been given permission by the Libyan government to land planes in the country to begin the mass evacuation of some 18,000 Indians living there. Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna said that two flights per day are scheduled to pick up the citizens stranded in Libya. A passenger ferry with the capacity to carry 1,200 people is also scheduled to arrive in Libya on Sunday. Krishna added that India is considering dispatching three warships to help in the effort.

South Korea is also to fly hundreds of its 1,400 citizens home from Libya. A foreign ministry spokesman in Seoul, quoted by the Yonhap news agency, said that the government has chartered three planes, two of them from Egypt Air. One plane is reported to have landed in Tripoli to fly 198 South Koreans to Kairo. A South Korean warship currently on anti-piracy duty off the coast of Somalia has been dispatched to help the evacuation in case the airport closes. It is expected to arrive next week, according to the defense ministry.

There were angry protestors at a demonstration against the Gadhafi regime in Seoul
There were angry protestors at a demonstration against the Gadhafi regime in SeoulImage: AP

The Thai government reported that it had begun evacuation efforts for 2,000 people from worker camps in Tripoli late on Friday. After hearing reports that the stranded were running low on food and water, Thais put pressure on the government to help the remaining 23,000 Thai workers stuck in Libya.

Indonesia is also preparing to evacuate all 875 citizens believed to be in Libya, mostly construction workers and students. The foreign ministry said that the first group of over 200 people will be taken on a charter flight from Tripoli to Tunisia on Friday evening, and the remaining will be flown out of the country gradually.

No schedule

While some people can rely on their government’s chartered planes and boats to escape the bloodshed caused by Gadhafi’s effort to crush a revolution, tens of thousands of migrant workers from poorer countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh are still trapped in Libya.

People fleeing Libya
Thousands of migrant workers in Libya are still waiting for helpImage: DW

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippine government was making arrangements for Filipinos to escape using chartered ferries and commercial flights. However, the foreign affairs department's spokesman Ed Malaya said he did not know when the ferries would arrive. When asked for a timetable by AFP, he said "they are still being arranged." The Philippine government is also counting on the help of the workers’ multinational employers to get their citizens out of the troubled Libya, saying that the government’s evacuation program would only take out around 13,000 Filipinos. The government estimates said there are around 26,000 Filipinos working in Libya, but the alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, Migrante International, puts the actual number at 36,000.

Earlier this week President Benigno Aquino said, "there are severe limitations on what we can do. Perhaps if we were as rich a country as America, then we could have consulates anywhere and everywhere." Migrante International president Garry Martinet criticized the government. "The response of our government has come too late. For nine days the violence has escalated and we haven’t seen a blueprint for evacuations," Martinez told AFP.

Bangladeshi embassy in Tripoli not reachable

The situation for around 50,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers in Libya appeared even bleaker, with the government in Dhaka having no immediate evacuation plans for them. A Bangladeshi charity, which is the member of the Hong Kong-based International Migrant Alliance, said it had unconfirmed reports that more than many Bangladeshi workers have been abandoned in Libya.

Libyan protesters hold signs and shout slogans against Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi
The unrests in Libya has killed hundreds of peopleImage: dapd

Kabir Hossain, a Bangladeshi working for a foreign engineering group in Libya, told AFP over the phone that he had been trapped in a Libyan desert construction camp, 400 kilometres from Benghazi, ever since the violence broke out and their employers abandoned them. "The protesters shoot people on sight; it’s not safe to go out. We don’t have food and money. We are almost starving," said Hossain. He also said that some people had tried to call the Bangladeshi embassy in Tripoli but they do not even answer the phone at the moment.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told parliament that the government does not have any information about Bangladeshi casualties in Libya.

Author: Anggatira Gollmer (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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